Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have developed a seamless way to improve poor indoor air quality, which the World Health Organization recently said accounts for 7 million deaths a year worldwide. The breakthrough invention utilizes fluorescent lightbulbs to remove pollution that escapes other air purification methods. The fluorescent system is unique because it can clean air without producing hazardous fumes or ozone-damaging emissions.
The Gas Phase Advanced Oxidation (GPAO) system was invented by Matthew Johnson, a professor of environmental chemistry at the university. The system turns gaseous forms of pollution into a solid state using ozone and fluorescent lightbulbs. Free radicals form and attack the pollution, making it clump together like bits of dust. Once the gas pollution becomes dust, it’s just as easy to remove from the air as any other type of dust particle—with electrostatic charges.
Johnson sees this development as an example of technology mimicking natural processes, and giving them a boost in efficiency. “As a chemist, I have studied the natural ability of the atmosphere to clean itself. Nature cleans air in a process involving ozone, sunlight and rain. Except for the rain, GPAO does the very same thing, but sped up by a factor of a hundred thousand,” he explained.
This new method of filter-free air purification has been tested and found effective in removing emissions from fiberglass production and from an iron foundry, which emitted benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene. Not only does the GPAO’s ozone-fluorescent partnership remove toxic chemicals from the air, but it also works on unpleasant odors—even the toughest stinks associated with wastewater treatment. The GPAO system can tackle many different types of pollution, resulting in air quality that can make people healthier and happier, and Johnson is thrilled about the possibilities. He explains: “I have always wanted to use chemistry to make the world a better place.”
Images via University of Copenhagen video screenshot