As the space program shifted its focus from putting life into space to sustaining life in space, the plentiful technologies to emerge from its hollowed labs have followed suit. For example, one of the biggest breakthroughs of the ’90s was a device that scrubbed the air of ethylene, a gas that builds up on the ISS and causes fruits and veggies to ripen too quickly. The technology was intended to slow down the process of ripening on long space journeys. A few years later, the experimental device was bought by a company now known as Airocide, which has built an empire around selling the technology to grocers, florists, and even hospitals.
This week, Airocide unveiled the first consumer-targeted version of the device, the Air Purifier, designed by NewDealDesign principal Gadi Amit. “The purifier industry has suffered from overselling and under delivering,” Amit tells Co.Design. “The overmarketing of air filters is ingrained in our culture.” Take to Amazon, and you’ll see as much: hundreds of models for sale, most with unhappy reports of expensive, unwieldy machines that don’t help much for allergies.
What makes Airocide unique–and what attracted Amit to the project–is that it’s not a traditional filter. Rather, the device is packed with thousands of tiny glass rings (Amit compares them to macaroni) coated with titanium dioxide. When a particle collides with it, the ring destroys the particle on contact, meaning there’s nothing to clean, and the only by-product is water vapor. The technology is so dependable, it’s now being used to protect government employees against anthrax.
Amit and his team have spent the past year developing the Purifier, which looks a lot like La Grande Arche, had it been painted orange. The rectangular hole invites comparisons to Dyson’s Multiplier fan, but according to Amit, the shape and form were based on a centuries-old principle of aerodynamics called the Coanda Effect. In addition to the internal fan, the design team engineered a non-mechanical way to promote the slow passage of air through the Airocide rings. The Coanda Effect dictates that a fluid jet (of air, in this case) will be attracted to surfaces near it. The trapezoidal face of the Purifier pulls air through the rings slowly, then distributes it quickly on the other side–simple physics.
Here’s the rub: The Purifier costs $800, which means we won’t be seeing a ton of them right away. But when you think about the market for a device that actually works, the cost doesn’t seem so ridiculous. Airocide has already proved popular in operating rooms and dentists’ offices. It might not be an immediate fixture in every home, but in certain cases–a family with severe allergies, for example–it might be worth the investment.
Buy it here.