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Zero-waste air purifier offers virus-blocking technology

23 January 2024

University of Bath engineers are now seeking partners for their new invention: a sustainable, high-performance technology that promises to be a breakthrough in air purification.

Professor Semali Perera
Professor Semali Perera

Key to the purifier and how it works is FOAM3R filter technology, patented by the University, which is described as a highly adaptable disruptor technology for microbial, CO2 and volatile organic compound (VOC) odour removal.

FOAM3R can be used to produce multi-functional foam structures for a wide range of applications, including aircraft cabins, in-car air filters, ship and boat cabins, residential heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, home air purifiers, respirators and breathing apparatus.

The innovative foam comprises a high-temperature polymer and active media, such as selective adsorbents, to capture contaminants and antibacterial agents to combat microbes. It is mouldable and lightweight, energy-efficient and anti-bacterial, and the addition of active metals into the structure makes it 99.999 percent efficient in removing common bacteria and viruses.

It also boasts a tailorable composition that allows for targeted capture of a wide range of small to large VOCs – some of which are responsible for unpleasant smells, while others can be harmful to human health – and high-performance removal of CO2.

The home air purifier design, currently in the prototype stage, features two cylindrical columns of the FOAM3R material. During operation, one column is used to purify the air, while the other ‘regenerates’ for reuse through heating, restoring the foam’s sorbent properties.

The process also removes collected pollutants and dead microbial debris captured in the air through heating, and recovers volatile components through cooling and condensation, which are collected as a liquid that is safe to pour away.

FOAM3R is created in a simple one-step manufacturing process and can be shaped into a variety of form factors. It can also be retrofitted into existing technology and is more energy efficient than comparable carbon-granule-based air purification systems.

Professor Semali Perera, from Bath’s Department of Chemical Engineering, says the air purifier design and FOAM3R technology could present a breakthrough in air purification. 

She adds: “We have created a highly efficient design, with none of the disposable cartridges or waste that we see in many commercial air purifiers, so there are several benefits to what we’ve created.

“Our next step is to engage potential commercial partners with the requisite expertise to bring our invention to the market.”

The University of Bath research team is seeking partnerships to help develop the technology. Interested parties can contact Irene Henning, Technology Transfer Manager, at ih468@bath.ac.uk.


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