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Study: Evaluation of ionic air purifiers for reducing aerosol exposure in confined indoor spaces.

Indoor Air

Numerous techniques have been developed over the years for reducing aerosol exposure in indoor air environments. Among indoor air purifiers of different types, ionic emitters have gained increasing attention and are presently used for removing dust particles, aeroallergens and airborne microorganisms from indoor air. In this study, five ionic air purifiers (two wearable and three stationary) that produce unipolar air ions were evaluated with respect to their ability to reduce aerosol exposure in confined indoor spaces. The concentration decay of respirable particles of different properties was monitored in real time inside the breathing zone of a human manikin, which was placed in a relatively small (2.6 m3) walk-in chamber during the operation of an ionic air purifier in calm air and under mixing air condition. The particle removal efficiency as a function of particle size was determined using the data collected with a size-selective optical particle counter. The removal efficiency of the more powerful of the two wearable ionic purifiers reached about 50% after 15 min and almost 100% after 1.5 h of continuous operation in the chamber under calm air conditions. In the absence of external ventilation, air mixing, especially vigorous one (900 CFM), enhanced the air cleaning effect. Similar results were obtained when the manikin was placed inside a partial enclosure that simulated an aircraft seating configuration. All three stationary ionic air purifiers tested in this study were found capable of reducing the aerosol concentration in a confined indoor space. The most powerful stationary unit demonstrated an extremely high particle removal efficiency that increased sharply to almost 90% within 5-6 min, reaching about 100% within 10-12 min for all particle sizes (0.3-3 microm) tested in the chamber. For the units of the same emission rate, the data suggest that the ion polarity per se (negative vs. positive) does not affect the performance but the ion emission rate does. The effects of particle size (within the tested range) and properties (NaCl, PSL, Pseudomonas fluorescens bacteria) as well as the effects of the manikin's body temperature and its breathing on the ionic purifier performance were either small or insignificant. The data suggest that the unipolar ionic air purifiers are particularly efficient in reducing aerosol exposure in the breathing zone when used inside confined spaces with a relatively high surface-to-volume ratio.