Today, the danger posed by public spaces affects millions of lives. Bipolar ionization (BPI) is an air-purifying solution that has been used for many years to clean the air in buildings.
But can bipolar ionization inactivate airborne viruses and other pathogens?
Medically, it has already been used effectively against SARS, norovirus, and the flu.
The technology is widely available for commercial and public facilities and integrates seamlessly with HVAC systems. Wider adoption could help turn the tide against coronavirus spread.
How Does Bipolar Ionization Work?
BPI technology uses electric voltage to convert oxygen molecules to charged atoms that inactivate airborne contaminants. These negatively and positively charged atoms, called ions, are effective against viruses, bacteria, and mold.
As a bonus, they also neutralize volatile organic compounds, odors, and allergy-causing dander. Ions are naturally present in pristine air, but pollution and other human activity deplete them. Depending on the contaminant, BPI replaces these charged particles with non-volatile gases such as oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide.
BPIs inactivate airborne pathogens in two main ways. First, the charged particles surround the microbe and break it down. In the case of viruses, the ions induce a chemical reaction on the cell membrane surface. They envelop the COVID-19 virus and puncture the protein spikes on its membrane, neutralizing them.
Second, the ions attach to contaminants and enlarge them enough to be trapped by the HVAC system filters. The ionic load also makes some particles heavy enough to fall to surfaces where they can be cleaned away or further inactivated.
The technology breaks down volatile organic compounds and other odorous particles into carbon dioxide and water. The result is pure-smelling air that appeals to users of commercial and public spaces.
Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization
A more advanced BPI technology called Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization has been tested on Sars-CoV-2 (COVID-19) and test results showed a 99.4% inactivation of viral particles at 30 minutes under conditions replicating an occupied building.
NBPI provides fast and continuous microbe inactivation in climate-controlled spaces. Even 10 minutes of exposure to needlepoint bipolar ionization dropped virus levels by 84 percent.
Further studies are required for reproducibility testing as well as variation in environment and environmental factors. The full test results are here: NBPI test results.
The technology adds a potent layer of protection to existing measures. It doesn’t replace public health practices such as washing hands, social distancing, and wearing face-coverings.
The improvements in bipolar ionization technology have resulted in more benefits than just cleaner air.
Today’s Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization (NBPI) units are modular and scalable, making them cost-effective for all types of facilities. NBPI also helps reduce energy load by mitigating the level of filtering needed in a facility’s HVAC system.
Many large institutions are already using needlepoint bipolar ionization technology, including government buildings, schools, airports, and medical centers across the U.S.
The safest NBPI devices produce no byproducts such as chemicals or ozone. They don’t create crosstalk or electromagnetic interference and can be located near sensitive equipment in medical, aviation, and data centers. Installation is straightforward, and maintenance is minimal.
COVID-19 fears are decimating the commercial aviation industry and crippling business and personal travel. Though planes have air sanitation methods such as HEPA filtration and aerosol disinfectants, airport terminals need a large-scale solution. Some major terminals have solved this with needlepoint bi-polar ionization integrated with their HVAC systems.
The ability to sanitize air using bi-polar ionization provides leverage to encourage the resumption of regular air travel. There are airports using NBPI technology in Charlotte, San Francisco, New York, Minneapolis, Vancouver, Fort Lauderdale, Anchorage, and others.
Many employees now work from home due to the pandemic, but at a cost to effectiveness and work-life balance. Companies must weigh business needs against health concerns as people start returning to worksites.
Some large employers already use bipolar ionization, which is mitigating COVID-19 risk in their buildings. Several professional football teams, auto manufacturers, and large tech companies have deployed the technology in their U.S. locations.
Essential businesses have no choice but to keep most of their operations on site. Healthcare, retail, and other essential workers run a particular risk of spreading germs at work.
Not all companies or professional teams can work in a bubble, such as the NBA bubble that has proven to be quite an effective isolation measure against the spread of COVID-19.
But in addition to other measures, NBPI can reduce people’s chances of workplace infection.
Hotels are increasingly adopting NBPI to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection for guests and staff. Before the pandemic, hotels enthusiastically deployed the technology for particular purposes, such as in guest rooms with fitness equipment. They have now shifted focus to shared spaces such as lobbies, hallways, fitness centers, and dining facilities.
Fortunately, the technology matches the hospitality industry’s need for scalability. Bipolar ionization units exist to fit any air system space from guest cottages to massive hotels and conference centers.
Retrofitting Existing Systems
The pandemic has accelerated business and government interest in retrofitting HVAC systems with needlepoint bi-polar ionization.
Several straightforward and cost-effective configurations exist for a range of facilities. For maximum air coverage, one option is to install the NBPI unit in the HVAC system on the filter’s supply side. The supply duct is another possible location, where the ions sanitize the duct on their way to the target space. A third option is to attach the unit to a room’s heat pump or fan coil. For larger areas, the NBPI device can reside inside a central HVAC system.
Helping Society Breathe Easier
Public and commercial facilities are major COVID-19 battlefronts, but the air carrying the virus can also help defeat it.
Needlepoint bi-polar ionization technology offers a safe, UL 2998 ozone free, cost-effective solution that integrates with existing HVAC systems to provide continuous decontamination.
Its scalability suits buildings of all sizes and occupancy needs, from boutique hotels to international airports. The public health and business cases for its continued adoption are compelling.
For more information about Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization solutions or whole facility disinfection, contact our team of experts at (512) 615-6615.