Air Quality Cocktail: A Gustatory Experience to Convey the Current Air Quality of Urban Cities

Environmental challenges, for example climate change, water pollution, or air pollution are complex, and generally difficult to grasp for those who are not affected. This lack of general comprehension may also contribute to these challenges not being contained adequately by civil societies and policymakers.

This interdisciplinary project presents the design and implementation of an interface that aims to raise awareness about the air quality of urban cities as a gustatory experience. The motivation for this project originated from Jessica Broscheit’s personal experience during a three-month visit to China. While Broscheit explored the streets of Beijing with her camera, she also experienced unhealthy air quality levels between 201 and 360 according to the U.S. Air Quality Index (AQI). These high values drew Broscheit’s attention to the density and flavor of smog: A “cocktail” with notes of lead and toxic chemicals that dried out her mouth. Based on Broscheit’s subjective perception, we envisioned a data-driven mixer that is able to interpret particulate matter concentrations with the aim of translating urban air pollution as a gustatory experience. To achieve this, we defined two objectives:

  • To design a gustatory experience that interprets different air quality levels via drinkable liquids.
  • To design and implement a user interface that can mix different formulas according to real-time air quality datasets of urban cities.

First, we started with a tasting to define gustatory parameters that represented good, unhealthy, and hazardous air quality:

  • For good and moderate air quality (0-100 AQI), we defined pure water.
  • For unhealthy air quality (101-200 AQI), we defined a mixture of methyl cellulose and water to interpret the density of air.
  • For very unhealthy and hazardous air quality (201-higher AQI), we defined a mixture of methyl cellulose, water, activated charcoal powder, and black pepper to translate the smog’s density, flavor, and particulate matter.

Then, we designed and implemented a prototype of a user interface according to the gustatory parameters that is able to mix three different drinks according to real-time air quality datasets of urban cities. To mix the three different air formulas, the system consists of an Erlenmeyer flask with water, an Erlenmeyer flask with a 2% methyl cellulose, and an extruder with a filling funnel that contains a mixture of activated charcoal powder and black pepper. In addition, the system consists of two microcontrollers that process different recipes according to the air pollution query, two peristaltic pumps that pour the liquid into the glass, and a motor that controls the extruder with the powder. Moreover, we used dry ice to create a constant fog around the system, which serves as a metaphorical representation of an atmospheric environment. Users who would like to taste the air quality, can select a city on the world map and get their drink mixed according to the actual air quality dataset.

In summary, we developed a functional prototype that is able to mix an “air quality cocktail” based on real-time datasets of urban cities. Depending on the dataset, the mixer can serve three distinct drinks, representing good, unhealthy, and hazardous air quality. The purpose of the developed mixer is to become an object for debate and knowledge transfer, by serving provocative drinks that raise awareness about the atmospheric environment among the civil society.

A project by Thomas Lehmann (Computer Science), Andrea Bauer (Food Science and Nutrition), and Jessica Broscheit (Human-Computer Interaction).

The functional prototype of the „Air Quality Cocktail“ mixer.

System Design and Implementation

First, we started with a tasting of different methyl cellulose concentrations.

Then, we defined the system design.

In addition to the components available on the market, we designed individual components and produced them by using a 3D printer.

Finally, we created a „air quality cocktail“. Would you dare to drink this cocktail?

Making-of air quality cocktail mixer.


Thomas Lehmann

Thomas Lehmann


Andrea Bauer

Andrea Bauer


Jessica Broscheit

Jessica Broscheit