Simon Armitage's poem 'In Praise of Air' at the University of Sheffield. It's printed on canvas with a pollution-absorbing coating.

It isn't just governments and automakers working on reducing air pollution. Creating surface coatings that can absorb nitrogen oxides, usually titanium dioxide, has been a focus of several companies in several countries, and their products have been used on architectural tile, roofing tile and paving in England and The Netherlands.

The University of Sheffield has been working on the issue for more than a decade, and is using a poem by English poet Simon Armitage to show off its work. Armitage wrote a poem called "In Praise of Air" that was then printed on 33-foot by 66-foot piece of material coated with titanium dioxide and hung on a wall at the university. The University says that every day the material can absorb the pollution created by 20 cars. It's not as sexy as a previous effort by the university, which was a sleeveless dress called "Herself" that was covered in "pollutant-absorbing concrete," but it won't be nearly as awkward when you stop and stare at the poem.

You can read Armitage's poem and watch a timelapse video of the poem's installation below.

'In Praise of Air' Simon Armitage. Installation. from DED ASS on Vimeo.


In Praise of Air by Simon Armitage

I write in praise of air. I was six or five
when a conjurer opened my knotted fist
and I held in my palm the whole of the sky.
I've carried it with me ever since.

Let air be a major god, its being
and touch, its breast-milk always tilted
to the lips. Both dragonfly and Boeing
dangle in its see-through nothingness...

Among the jumbled bric-a-brac I keep
a padlocked treasure-chest of empty space,
and on days when thoughts are fuddled with smog
or civilization crosses the street

with a white handkerchief over its mouth
and cars blow kisses to our lips from theirs
I turn the key, throw back the lid, breathe deep.
My first word, everyone's first word, was air.