Researchers take aim at COVID-19 in ventilation systems

Saskatoon, SK — Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are hoping to reduce the potential risk for Canadians by developing testing equipment to measure how airborne viruses are transferred in building ventilation systems.
“SARS-CoV-2 virus may remain airborne for hours and can be transported tens of metres indoors and even further within air ducts,” said USask engineering researcher Carey Simonson (PhD), who is leading the team. “We want to see whether airborne viruses in the exhaust air of buildings are returned to the fresh supply air used to ventilate and reduce contaminants in buildings.”  
Simonson’s research, funded by Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), will focus on developing air exchangers which conserve energy without contaminating fresh air, using a barrier membrane to prevent viruses and other tiny pathogens from penetrating. He expects to have preliminary results in six months, and if successful, effective membranes could be incorporated into air exchangers within a year. 
Simonson is also a co-investigator on a new NSERC-funded project led by USask engineering researcher Jafar Soltan (PhD) which aims to inactivate airborne pathogens using an air sanitization device. Soltan will test the effectiveness and feasibility of the device for use in existing air conditioning systems. 
“The research will improve indoor air quality, reducing the risk of spread of airborne pathogens in health-care facilities, seniors’ residences and transit systems where maintaining adequate social distancing may be difficult,” said Soltan. 
Soltan’s project, which also involves researchers from the USask College of Medicine, the USask Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization—International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac), and industry partner Engineered Air, will assess whether virus particles can be made harmless using ozone gas activated by a catalyst.  
Soltan expects to have results within one year. 
University of Saskatchewan engineering researcher Carey Simonson (PhD) is leading a team to develop testing equipment to measure how airborne viruses are transferred in building ventilation systems. (University of Saskatchewan)