How Urban Sculpture Might Clean up the Air We Breathe

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Imagine a sculpture that could help make the air cleaner simply by sparkling in the sunlight.

That's the idea behind ProSolve 370e, one of the inventions currently on display at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York as part of the museum's National Design Triennial: Why Design Now?

The sculpture, designed by the German-based company Elegant Embellishments, was crafted of round architectural tiles made of recycled ABS plastic and coated with titanium dioxide (TiO2). When exposed to sunlight, the titanium dioxide combats and neutralizes two key pollutants: Nitrogen oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), the elements that contribute to ozone depletion and acid rain, not to mention respiratory problems in humans.

Titanium dioxide, which is known for its "antimicrobial, self-cleaning, anti-fogging, and air-purifying qualities" has been used as an anti-pollutant since the 1970s, but the German-based designers Allison Dring (American, b. 1974) and Daniel Schwaag (German, b. United States 1972) say the ProSolve 370e takes the technology to the next level. Their sculpture, they say, is more efficient, because they designed it so that the largest amount of surface area (painted with titanium dixoide) is exposed to sunlight—allowing a smaller, more compact sculpture to have the same effect as a larger piece with less exposure to light.

In addition to acting as a free-standing sculpture, the ProSolve 370e can also be attached to overpasses, buildings and other structures, which means it doesn't necessarily have to take up space on its own.

"Modification that effectively 'tunes' existing buildings by enabling them to perform in new ways," the designers wrote in the exhibit catalog.

Learn more about the sculpture and other green designs on the Design Triennial's website—or go check out the sculpture yourself.

“Why Design Now” runs through January 9, 2011 at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, 2 East 91st Street New York, NY 10128.

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