Air purifiers may be the solution for ventilation in gyms. The Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) is investigating this. That would allow gyms to remain safely open.
That’s according to the Dutch Broadcaster, NOS. Last month, a team of researchers did a study in the TU/e’s sports hall. Forty people exercised in a small room.
The aim – to get them breathing rapidly. The TU/e wanted to gain insight into the distribution of aerosols. These are fine droplets of saliva that spread in the air during exercise.
Spread of aerosols
The participants had been tested for the coronavirus before the research began. After that, they were quarantined for two days. They then used fitness machines for one day.
The researchers used almost 150 sensors. They tested the number of aerosols being released and how they spread throughout the day. “It was quite an operation. We, of course, needed permission from the Regional Safety Council and National Health Department,” principal investigator, Prof Bert Blocken, of TU/e, told NOS.
The professor isn’t yet able to draw a conclusion. He still has to present his findings to his colleagues. The science community also can’t agree on how aerosols contribute to the spread of the coronavirus; if they do at all.
‘Didn’t circulate well enough’
But Blocken speaks of ‘very interesting initial results’. “What we saw was that the conventional ventilation system we used didn’t circulate the air enough. Not for the 40 test subject working with moderate effort.”
This ventilation system circulates 5.7 times more air than is officially required. “The concentration of aerosols increased as the day progressed”, Blocken says. But when the research team installed two air purifiers in the same room, the concentration of aerosols remained at a low level.
Those air cleaners are mobile circulation devices that pump air. They neutralise aerosols with a plasma filter. “A good device can stop 98% of aerosols.”
Blocken thinks it can pose a solution for gyms to stay open safely. It will be cheaper too. “Increasing an existing mechanically balanced ventilation system in a gym tenfold easily costs €40,000.”
“This solution is up to ten times less expensive. It’s also more energy-efficient. And with enough air purifiers, you might even be able to get close to the outside air quality.”
People will always have to use these air cleaners in combination with existing ventilation. “They don’t extract CO2 from the air,” the professor concludes.
Editor: Melinda Walraven