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Scientists Spark Interest in New Air Disinfection Method

Test on nonthermal plasmas finds they kill majority of airborne viruses

April 11, 2019

Airborne air quality is an important consideration for facility managers. CMM offers advice on methods to maintain your building’s air filtration and purification processes to keep airborne contaminants that make up dust, along with the bacteria and viruses that travel on these dust particles, from spreading throughout your facility.

New methods to eliminate viruses from the airstream may soon be available. Engineers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, tested the effectiveness of charged air molecule fragments, known as nonthermal plasmas, in killing airborne viruses. Their study, published in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, found nonthermal plasma reactors were able to inactivate or remove 99.9% of test viruses from the airstream.

Nonthermal plasmas are the ionized particles that form around electrical discharges, such as sparks. Researchers pumped a virus that is harmless to humans into flowing air entering a reactor containing glass beads. Sparks initiated in the spaces between beads deactivated the viruses as they passed through.

Scientists believe this is an important finding as technologies for air disinfection are limited to filtration and ultraviolet light.

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