Businesses have long understood the benefit of a clean and healthy workspace in encouraging productivity and discouraging absence, but with the outbreak of COVID-19 this year, health and safety measures are tighter than ever before.
Alongside extra measures including hand sanitizing stations, social distancing and thorough cleaning regimens, one of the ways in which companies are looking out for the health of their employees is in improving the quality of the air in the building.
Bi-Polar Ionization (BPI) is one of the technologies that is experiencing a huge upsurge in popularity, as concerns rise about the dangers of stale air in workspaces.
But this concept is anything but new.
It was Albert Einstein that first recognised the potential benefits of BPI, after his sister fell ill with tuberculosis. On taking her to a hospital in the Swiss Alps, Einstein noted that the improved climate high in the Alps seemed to have a marked effect on her recovery.
After his sister fully recovered, Einstein investigated further, theorising that it was the conductivity in the air that created such a beneficial environment. Working with his friend Conrad Habicht, Einstein’s theory was combined with Habicht’s engineering skill to invent a device that was able to mimic the natural conductivity of the air in the Alps.
The product of this is negative ions, and this ionised air is responsible for the clean and crisp feeling of the air in the mountains, as well as in places where two bodies of water collide – such as a waterfall.
When thinking about the idea of suppressing viruses and bacteria, it is important to understand how viruses are transmitted in the first place.
When a person is infected with a virus, that virus is present in the tiny droplets that they emit when they sneeze, cough or even talk. Larger droplets can be propelled up to two metres by a cough or sneeze, and if this lands on an uninfected person’s face, hands or mouth, they could easily contract the virus too.
Smaller droplets called aerosols are also emitted during a cough or sneeze, and these fine particles form a spray that can remain airborne for hours. Anyone walking through the resulting ‘cloud’ could easily contract the virus.
BPI works by creating positive (H+) and negative (O2-) ions. These ions are able to attract virus molecules, surrounding the surface proteins and altering them.
This works on two levels. First, it makes the atoms too heavy to remain in the air, helping them to drop to the ground or surfaces. Second, by changing the structure of each virus particle on a molecular level, even if the particles do then enter the body of an uninfected person, the virus is no longer active and able to infect them.
Whilst there are other methods of capturing and containing coronavirus particles, many of these methods are passive technologies, such as HEPA filters, that simply catch the dangerous virus in the device and require the air to be passed through it to be effective.
BPI is far more effective because it is an active technology, that essentially “seeks out” and destroys the particles where they are.
Speaking to Business Insider, Philip Tierno, a clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at the NYU School of Medicine, said: “The ions produce a chemical reaction on the cell membrane surface that inactivates the virus. It can reduce 99.9% of microbes in a matter of minutes.”
So confident is Tierno in the BPI technology that he installed Bi-Polar Ionization in his own home, citing the efficiency of the process as his reasoning.
“It’s continuous disinfection that does not involve your direct intervention. In other words, something that’s passive. I do nothing” he said.
He also believes that the process is essential in the fight against the coronavirus. Where standard air filtration systems have filters that are able to trap almost 100% of the damaging particles in the air: “So, the air coming out will be cleaner air — but as other people are there around you, they’re still spewing out virus. The difference between that and bipolar ionization is that [BPI] is continuous — It’s already in the air.”
As mentioned before, Bi-Polar Ionization is nothing new. Used for many decades throughout Europe, it was found to be effective during 2004’s SARS outbreak, and has been used across Europe and the US to ensure the safety of food processing and manufacturing plants since the 1970s.
Now, as scientists theorise that it is likely that the coronavirus is airborne, making it crucial to use an active form of air purification to eradicate it even in populated environments, the need for this type of air purification cannot be overstated.
As Tierno explains: “The possibility of aerosolized spread of COVID-19 and the ability of particles to hang in the air for extended periods of time would make the consideration of an active air-cleaning strategy even more prudent,”
So why isn’t BPI more widely used already?
Some ionizers are understood to generate ozone, which can be harmful to humans in certain quantities. Since the discovery of BPI and the development of air purification devices, scientists and engineers have been working hard to combine ozone-free BPI with existing air purification systems to ensure the safety of the technology for constant use.
The Airius PureAir series has long been championing Photohydroionisation technology, using their renowned PHI Cell in air purification systems to achieve the fantastic levels of air cleaning and odour control that consumers expect from the brand.
The Airius PureAir Plus is the latest upgrade of this technology, which brings in BPI to ensure a new level of efficiency and effectiveness to the system, with a focus on removing ozone production entirely.
Whilst low levels of ozone are thought to be harmless, BPI technology cuts the risk altogether, creating a healthy environment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in any building.
Whilst any device from the PureAir system is beneficial for clean air production, this newest version is an exciting development in the fight against COVID-19.
For more information, please visit www.airius.co.uk or call us on 01202 554 200 where a member of our team would be pleased to offer further information.