University of Sheffield Unveils World's First Air-Cleansing Poem

Posted on May 15, 2014

Air cleansing poem poster at University of Sheffield on side of Alfred Denny Building

The University of Sheffield is displaying a poem on a giant poster on the side of the Alfred Denny Building. The poem, by Simon Armitage, is called "In Praise of Air." The University calls it the "world's first air-cleansing poem" because the poster is coated in nanoparticles created at the university that help purify the air.

The microscopic pollution-eating particles of titanium dioxide coated on the poster use sunlight and oxygen to react with nitrogen oxide pollutants and purify the air. The project is a collaboration between Prof. Simon Armitage and Science Professor Tony Ryan. They say the poem poster will absorb the pollution from 20 cars every day.

Professor Ryan says in a statement, "The science behind this is an additive which delivers a real environmental benefit that could actually help cut disease and save lives. This poem alone will eradicate the nitrogen oxide pollution created by about 20 cars every day. If every banner, flag or advertising poster in the country did this, we'd have much better air quality. It would add less than £100 to the cost of a poster and would turn advertisements into catalysts in more ways than one. The countless thousands of poster sites that are selling us cars beside our roads could be cleaning up emissions at the same time."

Armitage says, "I wanted to write a poem that was approachable, that might catch the attention of the passer-by and the wandering mind, and one that had some local relevance too. But I also hope it's robust and intricate enough to sustain deeper enquiries - the School of English looks towards it for one thing, and I'd like to think it's capable of getting the thumbs up or at least a nod from their direction, and from the big-brained students walking up and down Western Bank, and from discerning residents in the neighbourhood."

You can read the poem here on

Photo: Linda Bussey/University of Sheffield

More from Writers Write

  • Salman Rushdie is Writing Novel With Trump-Like Villain

  • Javaka Steptoe Wins 2017 Caldecott Medal for Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

  • New York Times Dumps Comics and Mass Market Paperback Bestseller Lists

  • Kelly Barnhill Wins 2017 Newbery Medal for The Girl Who Drank the Moon

  • A French Translator Describes the Difficulty of Translating President Trump