It’s often been said that actions speak louder than words. But perhaps words and actions can be combined in a way that makes both more powerful.
That must have been what the folks at Peru’s Universidad de Ingeniería & Technología (UTEC ) were thinking when they decided to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to the air pollution that is overtaking Lima with the help of a major construction boom. Working in collaboration with the Mayo ad agency, they designed and constructed a billboard that was equipped with special air filtration technology capable of removing dangerous particulates from the air. The billboard can effectively process 100,000 cubic meters of air each day, protecting both the construction workers and the local residents. This is roughly equivalent to the filtration capacity of 1,200 trees (although trees also remove carbon dioxide from the air).
This filter removes tiny particles of dust, stone and metal as well as bacteria, all of which can enter the lungs and cause a variety of respiratory illnesses. The innovation is totally on target considering the fact that the World Meteorological Association has rated Lima, which situated between the mountains and the ocean, as the most polluted city in South America. It works using water, which is combined with incoming air, and conveyed through several stages of pressurization and vacuum, effectively eliminates 99 percent of all airborne bacteria. The billboard filters all the air in a five block radius, using a modest 2,500 watts of electricity.
So while the billboard announces the upcoming arrival of the new campus, which is still very much under construction, the billboard’s filter is quietly working, literally, behind the scenes — demonstrating, as UTEC’s director of promotion, Jessica Rúas, says, “that engineering is behind everything,” and that this air-purifying billboard is “closely aligned with the university’s mission of educating creative engineers who are sensitive to social needs and have extensive scientific knowledge that enables them to become researchers and find solutions to society’s problems.”
This is the same university that unveiled another billboard, a year ago, that literally pulled drinking water out of thin air. This is particularly useful in the region where the university is located, where ground water is scarce but humidity is high. These projects both accomplished multiple functions: advertising the university, exhibiting the kinds of useful and appropriate technology that engineering can produce, and providing a needed service to the local community.
While many have come to view billboards as eyesores, particularly in scenic areas, the addition of this technology could make them a welcome addition in places where they are most needed. There might come a time, when, in particularly dirty cities, of which there are many, this technology could become mandatory on all billboards. Better yet, if the two technologies are combined, perhaps the billboard could become self-sufficient, producing all the water it needs to do the filtration, while receiving its power from the sun.
Image credit: UTEC
RP Siegel, PE, is an inventor, consultant and author. He co-wrote the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water in an exciting and entertaining format. Now available on Kindle.
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