Desktop Air Curtain Blocks Infectious Aerosols
Researchers at Nagoya University in Japan have developed a desktop air curtain system that prevents aerosols, such as airborne COVID-19 particles, from passing through it. The technology improves on some existing air curtain solutions that can create turbulent flow, resulting in the escape and spread of aerosols. The desktop device contains a dedicated suction port which draws air and aerosols into it, helping to reduce air dispersion. The researchers also hope to incorporate a UV sanitation system that will destroy particles in the recycled air. They also envisage that the device could be useful for reception areas and other places in healthcare facilities where social distancing is impossible.
The pandemic has thrown our previous carefree lifestyles into sharp relief, with the threat of new viral variants or future pandemics inspiring a rethink about how we can reduce viral transmission. This is particularly important in healthcare facilities full of vulnerable patients and essential healthcare staff who can’t easily be replaced if they fall ill in large numbers.
One option to reduce transmission is an air curtain, where airflow is cleverly controlled using ventilation equipment to create an invisible barrier for airborne particles and droplets. Such technology is currently used in some hospitals to prevent contaminants and air pollution from entering the ER from the ambulance entrance. Items and people can pass through the barrier easily, but it helps to isolate one area from another.
However, these air barriers can sometimes suffer from turbulent flow, which can reduce their effectiveness. This latest technology aims to improve on other air curtain technologies, and is a small desktop design, intended for use at reception areas, or when healthcare staff interact one-on-one with patients for long periods.
“We envisage this system will be effective as an indirect barrier for use in blood-testing labs, hospital wards, and other situations where sufficient physical distance cannot be maintained, such as at a reception counter,” said Kotaro Takamure, a researcher involved in the study.
To improve the air barrier, the desktop unit has a discharge port at the top and a suction port below, resulting in reduced air disturbance within the curtain. The air is recycled, and a HEPA filter can be installed to filter particles out. The researchers also plan to install a UV light to further decontaminate the recycled air. So far, the researchers have tested the device using an air pump-connected mannequin that “breathes” particles and a high-speed camera to track particle behavior. They found that the technology is highly effective at reducing particle movement through the curtain.
Study in AIP Advances: Blocking effect of desktop air curtain on aerosols in exhaled breath
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