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Billboard Lets Workers Breathe Easy

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

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Construction workers in Peru are getting some extra respiratory protection from an unlikely source—a billboard that reportedly sucks pollution from the air.

Peru's construction industry is booming, but construction zones on almost every block are a source of pollution with life-threatening consequences.

The new billboard can purify 100,000 cubic meters of air per day—the equivalent of 1,200 trees, according to its creators at the University of Engineering and Technology of Peru (UTEC).

UTEC billboard
Photos, video: University of Engineering and Technology of Peru

UTEC's air-purifying billboard uses thermodynamic principles to trap contaminants from the air in water.

The purified air reaches a five-block radius around the billboard, benefiting residents and construction workers.

Last year, the same facility invented a billboard that makes drinking water out of air.

Trapping Contaminants

UTEC says the billboard is “totally effective in removing [the] dust, metal and stone particles” that are often floating in the air around construction and residential areas.

UTEC says the billboard uses thermodynamic principles (or principles related to changes in temperature, pressure and vacuum) to combine incoming air with water in a machine that balances their internal heat.

This technology allows contaminants from the air to be trapped in the water (and the water used is 100 percent recyclable), UTEC explained.

It is "a highly efficient continuous process, with very low energy consumption," using about 2,500 watts of electricity per hour, UTEC said.

“This panel seeks to awaken vocations in young people and their interest in engineering and is closely aligned to the mission that the university is to train creative, sensitive engineers to social needs,” Jessica Rúas, director of promotion at UTEC, said in a press release (translated from Spanish).

UTEC explains how its new billboard purifies a high volume of surrounding air.

Rúas also said that the project demonstrated how "engineering is behind everything" and ways through which advertising can change the world.

Areas 'Suffocating'

According to data from the World Meteorological Association, Lima has the highest air pollution levels in South America, reported in 2012. Additionally, the city is surrounded by hills that act as a natural barrier to prevent polluted air from circulating, reported.

"Previously, the area around construction projects was suffocating," a construction worker says in a video explaining the technology.

Another worker adds: "As you can see, there is a lot of dust and there are chemicals in the work area."

In fact, UTEC itself is a construction zone. The university is currently building a new campus.

"A university that wants to change the world through engineering cannot be a part of this without looking for a solution," UTEC said.

Peru's booming construction industry means construction zones on almost every block.

Although air pollution in Lima has decreased by more than 50 percent in the past 10 years, the pollution levels are still triple what is recommended by the World Health Organization, according to

Measuring Metrics

UTEC has been measuring metrics daily, and told that between March 24-30, 49,800 people benefitted from 489,000 cubic meters of purified air. The billboard eliminated 99 percent of the airborne bacteria from that amount.

The university hopes to analyze the pollutants the billboards are capturing, so that it can possibly focus on specific air hazards for future billboards.

The air-purifying billboard, as well as the water producing one, are being promoted by ad agency FCB Mayo.

"UTEC is a client that constantly challenges us because [its] proposal is not traditional," said Juan Donalisio, creative director at FCB Mayo.


Tagged categories: Air pollution control; Construction; Construction chemicals; Education; Engineers; Hazardous air pollutants; Research

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