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Researchers develop an air filter capable of killing the coronavirus on contact

Published Jul 13th, 2020 4:53PM EDT
Coronavirus News

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  • Researchers have developed an air filter capable of killing the coronavirus on contact.
  • The filtration system exposes the coronavirus to levels of heat the virus simply can’t withstand.
  • The research team believes its system will prove incredibly useful in places like hospitals, schools, and local businesses.

Researchers at the University of Houston recently developed a filtration system that can instantly neutralize and kill 99.8% of the coronavirus after a single pass through. The discovery was originally published in Materials Today Physics a few days ago. The breakthrough is especially intriguing given that the coronavirus can remain in the air for hours and, in turn, can spread more readily than viruses like the common flu. And now that businesses like comedy clubs and restaurants are opening back up, a filtration system capable of decimating the coronavirus on contact is beyond useful.

“This filter could be useful in airports and in airplanes, in office buildings, schools, and cruise ships to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Zhifeng Ren, a co-author of the research paper said in a press release.

As to the technology behind the air filtration system, the study notes that the coronavirus simply can’t withstand temperatures above 158 degrees. Consequently, the filtration system runs extremely hot — to the tune of 392 degrees — and is thus able to effectively kill the coronavirus on contact. The system itself is largely comprised of readily available nickel foam.

Ren explains that the use of nickel foam was key as it helped the research team meet a number of integral design requirements.

“It is porous, allowing the flow of air, and electrically conductive, which allowed it to be heated,” Ren said in a statement. “It is also flexible.”

The University of Houston further explained the design process in a statement:

But nickel foam has low resistivity, making it difficult to raise the temperature high enough to quickly kill the virus. The researchers solved that problem by folding the foam, connecting multiple compartments with electrical wires to increase the resistance high enough to raise the temperature as high as 250 degrees C.

By making the filter electrically heated, rather than heating it from an external source, the researchers said they minimized the amount of heat that escaped from the filter, allowing air conditioning to function with minimal strain.

As it stands now, a prototype of the air filtration system has worked exceedingly well. Looking ahead, Ren is hoping that the device — which meets current requirements for an HVAC system — will start rolling off the production line sooner rather than later.

While the system itself isn’t anywhere close to being as effective as a vaccine, it could prove to be incredibly useful as storefronts continue to open. Additionally, the research team believes that the device will help improve safety at places where workers and individuals are especially vulnerable to the virus, with schools, hospitals, and public transit being three prime examples.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.