This Billboard Sucks Nasty Pollution Right Out of the Air

By Sarah Zhang on at

Billboards of the world, you can aspire to be more than signs pointing to cheap motels and sleazy roadside attractions. An engineering team in Peru has created a billboard that they say can purify 100,000 cubic metres of air everyday—taking in pollution and spewing out sweet, fresh air for the city.

The air-purifying billboard in Lima comes from the same folks at University of Engineering and Technology of Peru (UTEC) who created a billboard that captures drinkable water from thin air last year. Just as Lima has a water shortage problem, it has an air pollution problem. A ring of hills around the city traps nasty particles from traffic and construction, giving the city one of the worst levels of air pollution in South America.

UTEC decided to put their billboard in the middle of a construction zone, where a permanent cloud of dust hangs in the air. During one week in March, the billboard purified nearly 500,000 cubic meters of air by passing it through water. The dust, bacteria, and particles that were filtered out will be use to analyse air pollution.

As cities around the world struggle with unbreathable air, we've seen solutions such as smog-eating road surfaces and buildings. These surfaces are coated with titanium dioxide, which can bind particles of air pollution. Infrastructure built for one purpose can be given another.

What's interesting about billboards is that we think of them more as advertising than physical infrastructure. In fact, these are giant structures, as tall as a multistory building and as wide as a house, capable of much more than marketing. They may have been created for the sole purpose of advertising—but why not give them a more useful purpose? [Time]