Air Made Visible

What’s lighting up the entire side of UNC Charlotte Center City? 

It’s “Particle Falls,” an incredible, and frequently concerning, fusion of art and science. 

This animated light projection displays real time air pollution within uptown Charlotte. An instrument known as a nephelometer monitors “particle pollution” – elements smaller than 1/20th the width of human hair. They can come from cars and trucks, power plants, construction development and even cigarette and fireplace smoke. 

They’re invisible and also incredibly harmful to our lungs and overall health. Helping illuminate this hidden hazard, “Particle Falls’” blue lights flash yellow, orange and sometimes red when detecting particle pollutants. A serene blue waterfall of lights can suddenly transform into what appears to be a fireball. 

The installation is part of KEEPING WATCH on AIR from the University’s Urban Institute and the College of Arts + Architecture. KEEPING WATCH is a three-year initiative fostering collaboration with artists, historians, writers, scientists and environmental groups to engage, inform and inspire the public to better protect our environment. Previous years focused on plastics and water

You can catch this riveting look at Charlotte’s air from sundown to sunset through April 23. Check out this recent Charlotte Observer coverage for a deeper look.