"This is a technology that we wish the nation wouldn't need, but in light of our changing times, it's satisfying to be part of a solution that can help protect people and even save lives," said Ken Rappe, PNNL's senior development engineer.
PNNL's filtration system is unlike any other because it doesn't use common High Efficiency Particulate Air, or HEPA, filters. Instead, researchers found that by using plasma to destroy airborne contaminants that come through the filters, they actually lasted much longer, making the system more reliable and less cumbersome to operate.
In addition, the PNNL-developed system is able to destroy both biological and chemical contaminants including toxic industrial chemicals, such as hydrogen cyanide and hydrochloric acid, and chemical warfare agents, such as sarin, which was released in a 1995 terrorist attack in the Tokyo subway. In addition to destroying potentially deadly agents, the system pumps out purified air, allowing people to breathe freely in an otherwise contaminated environment. PNNL is interested in pursuing development of the technology for commercial applications.