Scientists say a miniature air curtain is helping stop the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals

A miniature air curtain has been developed to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals and other healthcare facilities where social distancing or mask-wearing is not possible.

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

Kotaro Takamure, co-author of the study, said: “We envision this system as an indirect barrier for use in blood testing laboratories, hospital wards and other situations where physical distancing cannot be maintained, such as at a reception desk, will be effective.”

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

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

Hospitals use them to prevent ambulance fumes and other contaminants from getting inside an emergency room.

A challenge in developing smaller air curtains is to completely block incoming aerosol particles over time, as it is difficult to maintain the air wall over a long distance.

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

To address this the DACS has an exhaust and a suction port where the generator at the top creates the airflow which is directed to the suction port at the bottom which captures any particles.

A high-efficiency particle filter (HEPA) can be installed in the intake opening to clean the air.

The researchers are also developing an add-on to the device that uses ultraviolet light to disinfect and recirculate the air to maintain the air curtain and air pressure in the room.

The DACS was tested using an air compressor connected to a mannequin to simulate breathing.

Dioctyl sebacate, a widely used solvent that disperses easily, was added to the airflow to create aerosol particles that could be traced.

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

They showed aerosol particles approaching the DACS before abruptly bending towards the intake port, meaning the air curtain completely blocked any incoming aerosol particles.

When the researchers passed the mannequin’s arm through the DACS to mimic the drawing of blood, the airflow was cut off, although the device was still able to block aerosol particles.

Researchers also tested the device on patients who were having blood drawn at Nagoya University Hospital in Nagoya, Japan.

You will now attempt to lower the suction port so the arm can be placed under the heart for proper blood collection.

The results were published in the journal AIP Advances.

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News. Scientists say a miniature air curtain is helping stop the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals

Rick Schindler

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