The world's first air-cleansing poem

  • World's first air-cleansing poem has removed more than two tons of nitrogen oxide from the environment
  • Catalytic poem is printed on specially treated material which purifies its surroundings
  • Catalytic technology could help urban areas tackle high levels of pollution

In Praise of Air, the world's first air-cleansing poem, has removed more than two tons of pollution from the environment as part of a project that could be used to fight pollution in cities across the world.

Simon Armitage, Professor of Poetry at the University, and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Science Professor Tony Ryan, collaborated to create the catalytic poem – printed on material containing a formula invented at the University which is capable of purifying its surroundings.

Since being developed in 2014, the poem has removed more than two tonnes of nitrogen oxide from the environment whilst being on display on the wall of the University’s Alfred Denny building.

Where it all began: May 2014

What next for the project?

The team now hope the poem and its air-cleansing technology can be replicated on billboards and artwork in towns and cities across the world to help tackle pollution.

Professor Joanna Gavins, who leads the project from the University of Sheffield’s School of English, said: "We all know that pollution is a major problem for the world’s urban areas but so far we as a society haven’t fully adopted any long-term solutions to tackle the problem.

"Scientists, such as my colleagues in Sheffield, are developing technologies to help us clean the environment but it’s the arts and humanities that can help raise awareness of environmental issues and inspire people to adopt altruistic pro-environmental behaviours.

"Since the poem was installed in 2014 we’ve been inundated with positive and supportive comments from the community and passers-by. It also generated interest from people all over the world and received worldwide media coverage. We’ve had lots of comments from people who feel it has not only made an impact on the environment but added another cultural landmark to the city."

Professor Tony Ryan, who developed the pollution-busting technology at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Chemistry, added: "This poem has shown how science and the arts and humanities can work together to address the very serious issue of poor air quality in our towns and cities.

"The poem is printed on a material that can mitigate the pollution caused by our addiction to driving and could cut disease and help save lives.

“The project has been really well received both in Sheffield and all over the world. If we could replicate this in every urban area in the UK then we could have much better air quality.”

The poem's exhibition in Sheffield was a temporary project to demonstrate its potential impact. The poem was then transformed into 12 limited edition artworks to raise funds for the British Lung Foundation.

World's first air-cleansing poem transformed into limited edition artworks

Air-cleansing artwork raises funds to help tackle lung diseases