Created 3 million X larger than a real 1μm sized diesel soot particle, the artwork Inhale stands 3m tall. The sculpture will become a point of discussion, opening up conversations about a whole range of issues. Commissioned by UWE for the UPSTREAM initiative, artist Luke Jerram has created a sculpture of a diesel soot particle to exhibit it in a number of different contexts.

According to the World Health Organisation, air pollution contributes to 6.5 million deaths globally and more than 80% of people living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO guidelines. A significant contributor to air pollution in the UK is the diesel engine.

Luke said “The artwork was in part inspired by the recent VW Diesel scandal and a friend, who’s young child suffers from asthma”. 

The four main pollutant emissions from diesel engines are carbon monoxide-CO, hydrocarbons-HC, particulate matter-PM and nitrogen oxides-NOx. Diesel soot particles, emitted from vehicles, are composed primarily of black carbon but also contain other substances, such as metal from break pads and silicate from the roads.

The diesel soot sculpture will enable the public to ask:

  • What are the human health implications of air pollution?
  • What is the health impact of driving by car to work verses cycling or walking? How do our transport choices impact on human health?
  • How does air quality effect urban planning? – Such as the location of roads, schools, hospitals, trees/hedges/parks.
  • How is air pollution influenced by the weather and climate change?


Size of Particles we inhale

The depths to which particulate matter can penetrate our airways are influenced by particle size, breathing patterns and individual lungs. In general, the smaller the particle the further into the lung it will penetrate. Typically, particles with an aerodynamic diameter smaller than 10 μm will be inhaled and be deposited in the upper airway, whilst those with a smaller diameter will typically penetrate progressively further into the lung. Ultrafine particles may also enter the bloodstream.

The UPSTREAM project at UWE is funded by the Wellcome Trust. 

Related Reading

Read Telegraph story about illegal emission cheat devices fitted to lorries.
Read Guardian about the VW Dieselgate scandal.