What's CO2 Got To Do With It-Campus Design and Facility Development - Carnegie Mellon University

What's CO2 Got To Do With It?

"What's CO2 Got To Do With It?" by Longzhu Shen

Dates of Installation: 05-01-2012 through 05-31-2012

What's CO2 Got To Do With It?

Photo by Steve Ellington

Sculpted by chemistry graduate student Longzhu Shen, the installation uses environmentally-friendly lighting to illustrate the rise and fall of carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 800,000 years.  Shen hopes that it draws attention to the unprecedented rise in carbon dioxide levels since the Industrial Revolution and stimulates public discussion about sustainability.

“If you look back over 800,000 years, the carbon dioxide level fluctuated between 172 and 292 parts per million (ppm).  It never passed 300ppm,” Shen said.  “But the current level is about 393ppm.  That is really, really striking evidence for people to consider how our behavior can impact nature and what changes need to be made toward a sustainable future.”

The installation comprises six 33-feet-long solar-powered LED ropes that glow a brilliant blue at nighttime.  Shen and his artwork faculty sponsor, Research Professor of Chemistry Mark Bier, came up with the idea to piece together the LED ropes to recreate a graph of carbon dioxide fluctuation.  Shen downloaded the CO2 data gathered from ice cores in Antarctica and used the computer program Mathmatica to scale the data to best fit the dimensions of the fence.  Each dip and climb in carbon dioxide concentration that appears on the 68 feet of fence is as scientifically accurate as he could fasten the LED rope using nearly 500 tie wraps.
- Story by Amy Pavlak (MCS Public Relations)