Miniature air curtain helps stop the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals, scientists say

A miniature air “curtain” has been developed to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals and other healthcare settings where social distancing or the use of masks is not possible.

The desktop air curtain system (DCAS) can block all incoming aerosol particles, the Japanese scientists behind it say.

Study co-author Kotaro Takamure said: “We anticipate that this system will be effective as an indirect barrier for use in blood testing laboratories, hospital wards and other situations where sufficient physical distance cannot be maintained, such as at a reception desk.

Miniature air curtain to reduce the spread of COVID
Miniature air curtains can help stop the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals, laboratories and other healthcare settings, Japanese scientists say.
Danny Halin/Zenger

An air curtain, or air door, is a fan-driven ventilation system that creates an air seal over an entrance.

Hospitals use them to prevent ambulance fumes and other pollutants from reaching the interior of an emergency room.

One challenge in developing smaller air curtains is to completely block incoming aerosol particles over time because it is difficult to maintain the wall of air over long distances.

The devices lose air discharge intensity and create a turbulent flow that allows infected aerosol particles to escape into the surrounding environment.

To address this, the DACS has a suction and discharge port, where the generator at the top produces the airflow that is guided to the suction port at the bottom which captures all the particles.

A High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter can be installed on the suction port which purifies the air.

The researchers are also developing an addition to the device that would disinfect the air with ultraviolet light and recirculate it to maintain the air curtain and air pressure in the room.

The DACS was tested using an air compressor attached to a manikin to simulate breathing.

Dioctyl sebacate, a widely used solvent that spreads easily, was added to the airflow to create traceable aerosol particles.

Particle image velocimetry and high-speed cameras were used to measure the blocking effect of the DACS.

They showed aerosol particles approaching the DACS before abruptly bending towards the suction port, meaning the air curtain was completely blocking all incoming aerosol particles.

When the researchers placed the manikin’s arm through the DACS to mimic blood collection, the airflow was interrupted, although the device was still able to block aerosol particles.

The researchers also tested the device on patients who had blood drawn at Nagoya University Hospital in Nagoya, Japan.

They are now considering lowering the suction port so the arm can be positioned below the heart for proper blood collection.

The findings were published in the journal AIP Advances.

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.

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