Washington University researchers develop new air filter for viral particles

Engineering researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have developed a new kind of air-cleaning technology to better protect the lungs from airborne viruses, allergens and ultrafine particles.

The device, currently known as SXC ESP, was invented by a team led by Washington University professor Dr. Pratim Biswas. Biswas is also the chair of the university's Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

A recent study conducted of the device, which was published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, concluded that the SXC ESP could aid in the prevention of viral infections and inhalation-induced allergic reactions better than existing filter-based systems.

"Because many people in developed countries spend the majority of time indoors, properly maintaining indoor air quality is an absolute necessity to protect public health," Biswas said.

The device incorporates a form of soft X-ray irradiation as a component of the electrostatic precipitation process that is currently used to remove larger particles from airflows. The technology ensures that a broad size-range of particles is charged and can then be captured.

"Traditional air cleaners can trap viruses or other toxic particles in the filter, where they linger and grow," Biswas said. "This device finds the virus or toxic particle or bioterror agent and inactivates it in one application."