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

  • Catalytic poem by award-winning writer Simon Armitage to be auctioned off for charity
  • Poem has been transformed into 12 limited edition artworks to raise funds for British Lung Foundation
  • More than two tonnes of pollution has been removed from the environment by the poem since 2014

The world’s first air-cleansing poem, which has removed more than two tonnes of pollution from the environment, is being auctioned off for charity to help in the battle against lung disease.

A canvas print created from the catalytic poemThe poem by award-winning writer Simon Armitage, Professor of Poetry at the University of Sheffield’s School of English, has been transformed into 12 limited edition artworks that are being auctioned to raise funds for the British Lung Foundation next week (Tuesday 9 May 2017).

Printed on a specially-treated material developed by Sheffield scientists, the poem, In Praise of Air, is capable of purifying its surroundings through catalytic oxidation.

The team behind the project believe its catalytic technology could help urban areas tackle high levels of pollution.

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.

Now, 12 sections of the poem have been stretched onto frames and signed by Simon Armitage for auction at a special celebration event. The team also 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 Jo Gavins, who leads the project from the University of Sheffield’s School of English, said: “The nitrogen oxides that In Praise of Air helped to remove from the atmosphere during its time on the wall of the Alfred Denny building are a major cause of lung diseases and we hope to have raised public awareness of their damaging impact through our cross-disciplinary collaboration.

“We're delighted to be celebrating the end of our project by reusing the catalytic poem material and supporting the British Lung Foundation, who fund essential research on the prevention and treatment of lung diseases.

“Our final catalytic poetry event on Tuesday will ensure that our project has a lasting legacy, both through the creation of new artworks from the poem banner and through our donation to lung disease research.”

More information on the auction and how to register for tickets

Additional information

The University of Sheffield

With almost 27,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2017 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


For further information please contact:

Sean Barton
Junior Public Relations Officer
University of Sheffield
0114 222 9852