Pollution-removing banners sought in petrol stations

University of Sheffield-developed material which helps to remove NO2 sparks interest from flag advertising manufacturer

A fabric solution developed by the University of Sheffield to help remove nitrogen dioxide in the air is being sought for use on display advertising in petrol stations in order to help reduce pollution.

Flag manufacturing firm Northern Flags is in discussion with petrol station operators with a view to using the catalytic solution, which is added to fabric material, more widely across the UK to display banners and advertising.

Simon Armitage's poem 'In Praise of Clean Air' will be on display at this weekend at the University of Sheffield on NO2-removing material

Simon Armitage’s poem ‘In Praise of Clean Air’ will be on display at this weekend at the University of Sheffield on NO2-removing material

It is hoped that treating advertising banners with the solution will help to cut traffic pollution at petrol stations.

The formula has previously been used by the University in collaboration with the London College of Fashion to create clothes which clean the air while they are worn, and also to create the ‘In Praise of Air’ poem by Simon Armitage, which has been on display in the centre of Sheffield (see story).

The material is coated with microscopic pollution-eating particles of titanium dioxide, which use sunlight and oxygen to react with nitrogen oxide pollutants and purify the air.

The idea to use the solution in petrol stations came about because Northern Flags manufactured the catalytic poem, and the firm also produces promotional flags and banners for petrol forecourts.

Managing director of Northern Flags, Iain Clasper-Cotte, said: “We have been in discussions with many leading forecourt operators and outdoor display contractors. Many are interested in the potential benefits and we expect to see a slow adoption of it with a number of environmentally focussed brands over the next 18 months.

“This is an exciting opportunity to make a really positive impact on the environment around the areas where these flags and banners are displayed. Frequently these are in areas of major traffic or pedestrian use therefore the cleaning properties can have a tremendous impact.

He added: “Point of sale and construction are two obvious areas which could benefit from catalytic technology as they are around the places where people live and breathe so an opportunity to minimise pollution is essential.”


‘In Praise of Air’ is set to be back on public display on the University of Sheffield’s Alfred Denny Building this weekend.

The second edition of the poem has been printed on a new substrate called ‘Aventos Geomesh’, which according to the University “capitalises on the advances made with the catalytic titania formulation allowing the treatment of non-absorbent materials”, which makes the installation better suited to climatic conditions.

University of Sheffield’s Professor Tony Ryan, who helped develop the idea of using treated materials to cleanse the air, said: “The poem’s language is a provocation to change people’s minds about the quality of our air, whereas the catalyst uses oxygen and sunshine as a reagent to neutralise a harmful pollutant – so both of them cleanse the air.”

Dr Joanna Gavins, from the University’s School of English and project manager for the catalytic poem collaboration, said: “We had a wonderful response to catalytic poetry from the public when ‘In Praise of Air’ was first installed. It really seemed to capture people’s imaginations and there was lots of interest on social media and across the international press.”

She added: “I’d love to see more catalytic poems spring up in other locations. We could have catalysed poems on public transport, in our workplaces, in schools and hospitals – the possibilities are endless and the impact on the environment could be really positive!”


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