Washington University researchers develop bioterror air purifier

Researchers at Washington University recently developed an air purification device that is able to effectively protect against pathogenic bacteria, viruses, allergens and ultrafine particles.

The new technology, which is known as an SXC ESP, employs a soft X-ray electrostatic precipitator. The device was described as having many potential uses in an article in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, PlanetSave.com reports.

Potential uses of the SXC ESP include protection from bioterror attacks for important buildings, filtering the air in fossil fuel power plants, filtering out diesel exhaust particles, and protecting against the spread of disease in hospitals and surgery rooms.

"Small particles are difficult to remove, and our device overcomes that barrier," Pratim Biswas, the chairman of the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering at Washington University, said, according to PlanetSave.com. "The device not only captures particles with a high level of efficiency that has never before been achieved; it also inactivates them. Even bioterror agents are blocked and completely inactivated."

Biswas said that the device is similar in cost to home high-efficiency air cleaners, but that it is easier to use and more effective.

"The SXC ESP works by placing a charge on the particles - which it does very effectively, and then using an electrical field to trap the particles," Biswas said, according to PlanetSave.com. "The SXC unit then also completely inactivates biological particles, by irradiating them, and photoionizing them - as UV light does, only more energetically."

Biswas said that the device exceeded standards for high-efficiency articulate air filters, which must be able to remove particles larger than 0.3 micrometers with an efficiency of 99.97 percent, PlanetSave.com reports.