New air purification technology to eradicate airborne viruses

May 25, 2018, Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology
A research team, led by Professor Jaesung Jang at UNIST has introduced a new air purification system, using the vacuum ultraviolet (VUV). Credit: UNIST

A team of researchers, affiliated with South Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) has succeeded in developing new air purification technology to eradicate airborne viruses.

Conventional indoor air purification systems often use UV light to sterilize and eradicate harmful airborne biological agents, such as bacteria, viruses, and mold spores. Despite its disinfection efficiency, such UV-based disinfection method generally uses recirculating mode and requires long irradiation periods due to its low photon energy.

Professor Jaesung Jang and Dr. Jeonghyun Kim in the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering at UNIST have introduced the next-generation of air purification technology, using the vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) and [hotocatalysis. The new technique can inactivate airborne viruses towards a flow-through indoor air purifier, having short irradiation time. This breakthrough has been published in Aerosol Science and Technology on February 13, 2018.

The UV radiation below 200nm, named VUV is an effective bactericidal option against airborne disease viruses. Nevertheless, the use of VUV light has been limited by the creation of toxic ozone. Such issue has been solved by adding an extra UV photocatalysis system within the device.

Shown above are four types of catalyst frames with an illustration of the gas flow patterns: (a) 2 mm pleated catalyst, (b) 5 mm pleated catalyst, (c) spiral type catalyst, and (d) flat sheet type catalyst. (e) No catalyst. (f) A photograph of the photo-reactor. Credit: UNIST

In the study, the team investigated photocatalysis reactions by VUV with short irradiation times (0.004–0.125 s) for simultaneously inactivating airborne MS2 viruses and degrading the generated ozone toward a flow-through air disinfection system with high flow-rates. This cylindrical-shaped device has a low-powered VUV lamp, encased in Pd-deposited TiO2 catalyst frames with different shapes (spiral type and 2 mm and 5 mm pleated type). These photocatalysts use the VUV light to activate the chemical reaction, thereby killing harmful viruses. According to the research team, VUV photolysis treatment showed the highest inactivation efficiencies for MS2 viruses when compared with UV photolysis, ozone dose combined with UV photolysis, and ozone dose alone treatments.

"This system has the potential for high-capacity bioaerosol inactivation in HVAC, regardless of the weather," says Professor Jang. "Most UV-based purifiers take longer times for disinfection, but this new method can significantly improve the quality."

A bar graph, showing the MS2 inactivation efficiency with irradiation time for all four treatments between VUV light, UV light, ozone dose + UV light combination, and ozone dose. Credit: UNIST
"There are negative pressure isolation rooms for patients in hospitals in case where an infectious airborne disease viruses, such as tuberculosis, strikes," says Professor Jang. "This system is capable of providing clean air at high efficiencies."

Explore further: Double disinfection treatment for safer drinking water

Related Stories

Double disinfection treatment for safer drinking water

March 7, 2018

In spite of good progress in water hygiene during the recent decades, contaminated water still causes millions of diseases every year. Most of these diseases are caused by enteric viruses, and better water disinfection methods ...

Making your water safer with UV light

November 1, 2017

In Natalie Hull's hometown in rural Kentucky, well water was contaminated by heavy metals from mining, and sewage from pipes emptied into a creek that ran near her house.

Inactivate an Airborne Virus With...Plasma

July 28, 2004

Recently, new viral-based infectious diseases such as SARS (corona viruses) and avian influenza (orthomyxoviruses) have made their appearance, and cases that threaten human health are on the increase. In seeking new technologies ...

New device better traps viruses, airborne pathogens

February 22, 2013

(—Washington University engineering researchers have created a new type of air-cleaning technology that could better protect human lungs from allergens, airborne viruses and ultrafine particles in the air.

Recommended for you

What happened before the Big Bang?

March 26, 2019

A team of scientists has proposed a powerful new test for inflation, the theory that the universe dramatically expanded in size in a fleeting fraction of a second right after the Big Bang. Their goal is to give insight into ...

Cellular microRNA detection with miRacles

March 26, 2019

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short noncoding regulatory RNAs that can repress gene expression post-transcriptionally and are therefore increasingly used as biomarkers of disease. Detecting miRNAs can be arduous and expensive as ...

Race at the edge of the sun: Ions are faster than atoms

March 26, 2019

Scientists at the University of Göttingen, the Institut d'Astrophysique in Paris and the Istituto Ricerche Solari Locarno have observed that ions move faster than atoms in the gas streams of a solar prominence. The results ...

Physicists discover new class of pentaquarks

March 26, 2019

Tomasz Skwarnicki, professor of physics in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University, has uncovered new information about a class of particles called pentaquarks. His findings could lead to a new understanding ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.