Writing is on the wall for cleaner air in Sheffield

The poem on the wall. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

The poem on the wall. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

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Scientists in Sheffield claim to have removed more than two tons of nitrogen oxide from the environment, by displaying a giant poem on the side of a building.

Simon Armitage’s verse, In Praise of Air, has been emblazoned for two years on the side of a tower block at Sheffield University, printed on specially treated material developed by scientists there, which is capable of purifying its surroundings.

Simon Armitage and Professor Tony Ryan with the poem. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Simon Armitage and Professor Tony Ryan with the poem. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

After completing measuring its effects yesterday, the university said it hoped similar displays could be used to fight urban pollution in other cities around the world.

The poem was printed on material that neutralises pollution using a process called catalytic oxidation, which reacts with the oxygen in the air.

Prof Tony Ryan, who developed the technology, said: “The material can mitigate the pollution caused by our addiction to driving and could cut disease and help save lives.”

He said its exhibition, just off Bolsover Street near the city centre, had shown how science and the arts could work together “to address the very serious issue of poor air quality in our cities”.

He added: “If we could replicate this in every urban area in the UK then we could have much better air quality.”

Armitage who is professor of poetry at the university’s school of English, wrote: “My first word, everyone’s first word, was air.”

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