Particle Falls to Shine a Light on Charlotte’s Air Pollution

Feb 26, 2020

by Andrew Whelan

After four years, Clean Air Carolina is bringing Particle Falls back to Charlotte! This dramatic installation by environmental artist Andrea Polli bridges art and science to raise public awareness of what we’re breathing.

Particle Falls visually represents local air quality by translating real-time particle pollution data into an animated light display, revealing the presence of an otherwise invisible but dangerous air pollutant. Using specialized computer software designed by Andrea Polli, the exhibit projects a ‘waterfall’ of falling blue light onto an outdoor surface, while a sensor gathers data on the concentration of fine particulate matter in the surrounding air. The more pollution in the air you are breathing, the more orange and yellow dots you’ll see bursting over the blue waterfall.

Fine particulate matter is a form of air pollution that occurs year-round. It consists of a mixture of very small particles that are invisible to the naked eye. The largest sources of particle pollution in Charlotte include cars, trucks, diesel buses, construction equipment, and industrial facilities. Exposure to fine particulate matter — at any level — is linked to a long list of serious health problems including asthma, heart disease, cancer, adverse birth outcomes, and even premature death.

Particle Falls will be projected onto the west side of UNC Charlotte Center City every evening from February 28 through March 28, beginning at sunset. The innovative real-time air quality display is free and open to the public, and will feature several evenings of special programming including a Bike Night (March 3), a meeting of Charlotte-area Medical Advocates for Healthy Air (March 16), and panel discussions on Sustainable Development (March 13), Active Transportation (March 20), and Environmental Justice (March 23).

(from left to right) Programmer Eric Geusz, artist Andrea Polli, and technician Jared Rendon-Trompak attend the opening of Particle Falls Charlotte in 2016.

Come and see air made visible as we explore what’s in the air we breathe!

UNC Charlotte Center City
320 E. 9th Street, Charlotte, NC 28202
February 28 – March 28, 2020 | Begins nightly at sunset

For more information and to see the full schedule of Particle Falls events and programming, please go to