Local News

Raleigh art installation sheds light on invisible problem

Posted April 17

— A work of art is flowing down the side of a building in downtown Raleigh and it’s made of the air Raleigh residents breathe each day.

“It translates something that can’t be seen into something that can be seen,” said Paige Donnelly with Novozyme, which sponsored the project.

The installment, called Particle Falls, originates from a second story window on Wilmington Street.

“And the projector throws it across the street onto the building,” Donnelly said.

The projector is hooked up to computers that are connected to a box that takes constant air samples outside.

“That’s reflecting the amount of particulate matter, pollution that is in the air,” Donnelly said. “As you might see a truck or a bus or a car go by, you will start to see it flare up.”

The amount of particulate is shown on the waterfall in real time with flecks of yellow, orange and red. When conditions are really bad, it appears the waterfall is on fire.

The air monitor is very sensitive as well, and can even pick up on a smoker walking by. Several days ago, it lit up like a fireball and organizers later discovered someone had been burning something outdoors a short distance away.

The display is a visual representation of what the people of Raleigh are breathing in each day.

“And it can have impacts such as asthma, heart and lung disease, premature death,” Donnelly said.

Donnelly said people can cut down on air pollution by walking biking, driving low-emission vehicles and using cleaner burning fuels.

Particle falls will stay up until Sunday, wrapping up one month downtown.

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