air purification

UV-C Bests Bipolar Ionization in Eradicating Pathogens

By Joe Cestari, NoviSphere COO

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, interest has skyrocketed in technologies that clean and purify air by trapping and/or killing pathogen-carrying particles. These technologies, however, don’t eliminate pathogens with equal efficacy. Some familiar approaches, such as using HEPA or ULPA filters, are unable, on their own, to eradicate all types of pathogens, and they are not proven in all cases to eliminate coronaviruses.

Two more complex techniques purport to offer a high degree of effectiveness for inactivating pathogens: bipolar ionization and germicidal ultraviolet (UV-C) radiation. They function very differently, and it’s our belief that the latter technology, integrated into the NoviSphere™ PE 254 pathogen eradicator using our proprietary approach, is the better alternative.

What is bipolar ionization?

Needlepoint bipolar ionization devices apply high voltage across two electrodes to generate a plasma of high-energy ions that interact with air to form oxygen radicals and other ions. The disinfection mechanism of bacteria by air ions is generally summarized as a generated electrostatic force acting on the pathogen. Using air ions as an inactivation mechanism against airborne microorganisms remains controversial. One reason is that, in using this approach, one is modifying the room air by creating charged particles, an approach that suffers from unpredictable variability in pathogen inactivation. This is particularly true given the diversity of pathogenic aerosol particles (e.g., bacteria, viruses, fungi, spores, etc.) that may be present in indoor air. The charged particles may have enough energy to disrupt the protein structure of a virus or other pathogen; however, the efficacy will be highly dependent on the primary protein structure of the pathogen and the energy of the charged particle. The airborne ions may simply electrostatically bind to aerosol particles and cause them to settle out (via gravity) onto surrounding surfaces without full inactivation, imparting infection risk to these surfaces.

Another consideration of bipolar ionization as a means to destroy airborne pathogens is the risk of generating toxic ozone – a highly oxidative compound that can be harmful to occupants of the indoor area. Also, as it is a newer room-purification technology, limited independent scientific data has been reported on its efficacy, and there remain no established testing protocols available.  For these reasons,  the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has chosen not to take a position on bipolar ionization. Without this data, manufacturers may also overstate the potential ventilation energy savings (for which additional sensors with a high initial cost may be required).

What are the benefits of UV-C?

UV-C radiation is not new – hospitals and other settings have employed UV-C for more than four decades to inactivate germs, viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. UV-C works by disrupting the nucleic acid of the pathogen, making it unable to replicate and thrive, and thus rendering the microorganism no longer infectious. An inactivated virus particle, if reintroduced into the room air, cannot replicate or cause infection – because it’s dead!

The NoviSphere PE 254 device combines UV-C arrays with proprietary baffling technology that enhances the residence time of the pathogens in the presence of the UV-C radiation. The PE 254 device has been designed to operate at various velocities, while simultaneously helping ensure that all pathogen-containing aerosol particles are irradiated and effectively inactivated up to the desired flow rate (velocity). And because the UV-C arrays are fully contained within the unit, it is completely safe for use in highly trafficked areas or any occupied space – there is no danger of human exposure or damage to skin or eyesight. In continuous operation, the unit ensures that room air is changed multiple times per hour, with no living virions or other pathogens remaining. Our “direct kill” approach utilizes proven technology that can be effectively tested and benchmarked, and it aligns with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic (“Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19),” updated Jan. 4, 2021).

The CDC noted that installing transparent shields or physical barriers is beneficial but not sufficient: “Even in a large open office, with an employee 200 feet away from another, the virus can still transmit through the circulation of air.” To lower the likelihood of transmission, the CDC recommends:

  • Using natural ventilation, when possible
  • Increasing airflow by using portable high-efficiency particulate air filtration systems
  • Using ultraviolet germicidal irradiation as a supplement to help inactivate the virus

The CDC's recommendation for ultraviolet germicidal irradiation refers to ASHRAE’s position on airborne infectious diseases, which states: “ASHRAE will continue to support research that advances the state of knowledge in the specific techniques that control airborne infectious disease transmission through HVAC systems, including ventilation rates, airflow regimes, filtration, and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI).” ASHRAE suggests two UV-C strategies: installation into air handlers or ventilating ducts and irradiation of the upper air zones of occupied spaces with shielding of the lower occupied spaces. These strategies work to sanitize the air in a space while keeping occupants safe from the harmful effects of ultraviolet light.

Our NoviSphere PE 254 achieves the latter objective, and it can be installed into air ducts, or used as a standalone or portable installation. As our Feb. 4 blog post highlights, independent testing conducted at the University of Minnesota validated that the unit is 99.99% effective in eradicating a wide range of pathogens, including coronavirus. The full results are detailed in an article, currently available for review, that will be published in Environmental Science & Technology. (To download the full study, click here.)

Taken together, we believe all of this data offers compelling evidence for the choice of UV-C irradiation as a safer, more reliable and better regulated approach to pathogen eradication than bipolar ionization.

science behind eradication of coronavirus

More than Just Air Purification

The Science Behind Eradication of Coronavirus and Other Pathogens

By NoviSphere™ Staff

In early 2020, our NoviSphere PE 254 pathogen-eradication system was already well into development, with an intended spring launch. Then, the deadly COVID-19 pandemic hit, and we knew that bringing the product to market would not be truly viable unless we ensured that the technology could kill coronaviruses. To this end, we engaged with experts in pathogens and aerosol science from the University of Minnesota to test the unit’s efficacy against a COVID-19 surrogate strain.

The university team’s findings were written up in an article that is currently available for review and feedback by readers of Environmental Science & Technology. Published by the American Chemical Society, Environmental Science & Technology is a highly selective journal and only a small fraction of the papers submitted to it successfully complete the peer-review process and are published. The article is slated for publication in an upcoming issue of that journal, highlighting both the importance of the results and the quality of the experiments performed.

Summarized in this post are highlights from the article – most notably, the researchers finding that the prototype NoviSphere unit was 99.99% effective in eradicating a wide range of pathogens, including coronavirus.

The introduction explains that SARS-CoV-2, the strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19, can be spread via both direct aerosol (inhalation of airborne particles) and indirect aerosol (touching of infected surfaces) routes. As coronaviruses can remain present in an aerosol at room temperatures for some length of time, the need exists for technologies that can directly mitigate an infectious virus surviving in an aerosol. Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation at wavelengths of 100-280nm (UV-C light) has been known for more than 80 years as being effective at preventing transmission of airborne diseases, and thus holds promise for eliminating coronaviruses.

Subsequent testing of a prototype ducted UV-C system built by NoviSphere was conducted to confirm this capability. The University of Minnesota researchers used porcine respiratory coronavirus (PRCV, an alpha coronavirus) as a surrogate for SARS-CoV-2, together with a monochromatic 254nm UV-C light and a custom wind tunnel constructed specifically for this purpose. As the authors note, “…[T]here is clearly increased importance in establishing proven technologies for airborne coronavirus removal and inactivation applicable to large volumes of air, or at flow rates higher than traditional bench scale experiments.”

The article next describes in-depth the research methodology, including all materials, measurement and data analysis steps pursued. Following this section, the authors describe their results. Of particular interest is the sub-section on virus removal and inactivation. They explain that PRCV was chosen as a coronavirus surrogate for this research effort since it requires biosafety level (BSL) class II facilities for experimentation (the University of Minnesota Veterinary Isolation Facility in St. Paul is BSL class II certified), and the researchers were able to propagate the PRCV to the high volumes needed to conduct the experiments.

The full study provides details regarding the system’s performance in efficiently inactivating aerosol coronaviruses. The bottom line is that researchers found that zero viable virus particulate survived passing through the prototype NoviSphere PE-254 unit, thus validating the unit as 99.99% effective.

Interested in learning more? Register to download the full study here.

pathogen elimination system

NoviSphere in the New Year

Pathogen eradication for 2021 and beyond

By Paul Lockhart, CEO

2021: the year the world is expecting advanced technology, innovations, vaccines, and personal and social hygiene to overcome the pandemic challenge of 2020. Exactly one year ago, our team had been hard at work for several months developing a roadmap for what was to become NoviSphere – a company well positioned to provide complete rarified environments, battle viral and bacterial pathogens, deliver pure air for any occupied space, and, ultimately, to meet the coronavirus challenge. We’re ready for NoviSphere to be a part of the global community’s solution to COVID-19.

When the pandemic appeared as a minor news article in January 2020, our NoviSphere team was completing our pathogen-eradication system: a germicidal 254nm ultraviolet (UV-C) light system combined with proprietary technology that optimally exposes airborne contaminants to the UV-C light to ensure their destruction. UV-C light is a proven technology that has been recommended by the CDC as a method to reduce the likelihood of transmission of COVID-19. And, unlike other technologies, this “direct kill” approach completely eliminates the pathogens.

By February, when COVID-19 became the dominant news topic, we knew dedicated, objective testing of our NoviSphere PE-254 was necessary to gain the public’s trust. After all, COVID-19 was proven to be elusive and deadly; therefore, we went where experts in pathogens and aerosol science can do their best work – the University of Minnesota. In a highly regulated and advanced laboratory, U of M researchers tested our PE-254 prototype against a COVID-19 surrogate strain. Their results confirmed that NO live viruses were found in air exiting the NoviSphere PE-254, validating the unit as being 99.99% effective.

With this knowledge and the U of M test results under our belt, we launched NoviSphere and our PE 254 air-purification system in November 2020. We truly believe it is the best, most thorough pathogen-elimination offering on the market, and we are seeing heightened interest from companies and organizations around the world. We are excitedly setting goals for 2021 to bring a suite of new clean air innovations to public and private workspaces. Here are some examples:

  • First and foremost, we are excited about the opportunities our pathogen-eradication system presents to help get life back to normal in many different environments, such as healthcare facilities, schools, retail settings, restaurants, and sports venues, just to name a few. We designed the unit specifically to make UV-C technology safe for use in high-traffic areas.
  • We look forward to engaging with customers to install the NoviSphere PE 254 in these spaces so that workers and visitors can know they are constantly breathing clean, fresh air. We will be expanding on these and other sites that can benefit from the technology in future posts; for example, recently we took a look at shopping malls.
  • We are also focused on an ongoing educational effort. With the development and deployment of vaccines, there is much to be optimistic about regarding eventually curtailing the COVID-19 virus. However, the consensus is that more global pandemics are a virtual certainty, and we are committed to helping preclude the spread of future viruses and airborne illnesses. Another of our key goals, therefore, is to build awareness that maintaining clean indoor air is of vital importance – not just today but going forward.

Later this year, we plan to introduce our next product. Our COO Joe Cestari, in a prior post, provided his insights and a preview of our dynamic plans. Currently in development, our next offering will allow us to make significant inroads to improving global health and safety by providing rarified environments for all spaces where people live and work. This larger vision is what fuels and motivates our team – our collective experience has given us a new perspective into the importance of having access to clean, pure air 24/7. We are excited to have the means and opportunity to make this a reality so that you can breathe easy and stay safe, no matter where you are.

worst indoor air quality

Safe to Go Back? Fixing Shopping Malls’ Indoor Air Quality Problem

By NoviSphere™ Staff

COVID-19 has made 2020 a year that most will not be sorry to see end. While fast-tracked vaccines are currently being rolled out, offering hope for some return to normalcy, scientists agree that this will not be the last global pandemic. Clean, pure air must be a top priority if we are to prevent the spread of future viruses and other airborne illnesses.

This raises an issue that many of us likely hadn’t thought about too much in the “old days”: the overall air quality of high-traffic public areas such as malls, restaurants, theaters and sports arenas, to name a few. It turns out, for most of these settings, their air quality is problematic. This post is the first in a series that will examine the challenges associated with some of these venues and how NoviSphere addresses them.

Poor indoor air quality is changing consumers’ shopping preferences

Due to the pandemic, this holiday season looks very different for everyone. Many retailers and providers of shipping services predict it will be the largest online shopping holiday season in history, with fewer consumers going out physically to shop than ever before. Small wonder, as it turns out that malls top the list of places with the worst indoor air quality, according to the nonprofit site Environmental Pollution Centers.

Many malls house businesses that can generate high levels of harmful particulates, such as dry cleaners, food courts, salons and paint stores, and the buildings’ ventilation systems typically pull in dust, smoke and pollen from outside air. Further compounding this, we now realize the additional hazards posed by germs – i.e., potential pathogens – expelled into the air by shoppers and store employees in highly crowded conditions. Doesn’t sound like the fun day of shopping you might have in mind?

A new approach to indoor air quality is here

What will it take to convince consumers to step through the mall doors again? How can they be convinced that retail environments are no longer at the top of the worst indoor air quality list? For many, knowing they’re breathing a continuous supply of clean, fresh air will be the tipping point. NoviSphere can make this happen by putting in place rarified-air environments that keep you safe and decrease the spread of airborne illnesses. The NoviSphere™ PE 254 system continuously circulates air through the unit, which contains proprietary baffling technology to entrap pathogens and an array of germicidal 254-nm ultraviolet (UV-C) lights to kill them. This “kill zone” is fully sealed within the system, so it’s completely safe ­– and effective – for use in heavily trafficked locations like malls. The NoviSphere PE 254 runs 24/7 to ensure a safe, pathogen-free shopping environment through COVID-19 and beyond.

We look forward to working with retailers to integrate the NoviSphere PE 254 – as well as future NoviSphere technology offerings – into their venues. Our goal is to help the world get “back to normal” so that people can be out and about, enjoying the holiday shopping season as soon as possible, knowing that they’re protected from airborne pathogens. And the next pandemic? We look forward to helping stop it in its tracks.

A New Approach to Clean Environments

By Joe Cestari, Chief Operating Officer, NoviSphere

I’ve always been fascinated by technology and its ability to positively impact people’s quality of life. After earning my engineering degree, I was drawn to tech companies with this same focus and objective. Along the way, I became very interested in the holistic approach to the supply chain: building an ecosystem that establishes the most efficient and effective way to design, manufacture, and supply products and services for life-science or microelectronics products that can help solve world problems is highly valuable to me.

This interest has come into play in various positions I’ve held, and it ultimately led to my becoming part of NoviSphere. The notion for creating a new kind of company focused on clean air and environments came about several years ago – long before the Covid-19 pandemic erupted. At the time, while I was an advisor for Integrated Engineering Services (IES), I met up with Paul Jenkins, the founder and CEO of Bancroft Architects & Engineers (BAE), and Phil Lasarsky, CFO of BAE. Paul founded Bancroft in 2009 to design and engineer world-class health-care facilities for veterans. We began to talk about developing ultraclean environments, something that Paul had also discussed with former NASA astronaut Paul Lockhart, who also had a strong interest in the subject based on his own background and experience. This shared mindset was the germ of the idea that evolved into NoviSphere, of which Paul Lockhart became CEO.

Currently, the market for clean environments is highly fragmented. Companies that need to build and operate them face a long road of designing, subcontracting, and tapping multiple resources to integrate a solution that meets their needs. Our vision is for NoviSphere to become a true single source for creating highly rarified environments. As a turnkey provider of design, integration, autonomous monitoring and sustainment services, we’ll eliminate customers’ need to hire separate companies for each of these steps. Instead, our team will consult with them to develop and manage their projects from end to end, using a standard offering of products or one customized for their specific application. When complete, they will have an environment certified to deliver ultraclean, particulate- and pathogen-free air.

We intend to achieve this vision within five years, and we have a plan in place to ensure that we get there – starting with our first product, which we rolled out last week with the public launch of the company. NoviSphere™ PE 254 is our proprietary system that uses 254nm germicidal UV-C light sealed inside the unit to kill up to 99.99% of airborne viruses, bacteria and mold spores, continuously monitoring and changing room air up to four times an hour. Our system doesn’t just trap pathogens, it eradicates them, and it keeps the air circulating better than any other product that I’ve seen.

We took a holistic approach to designing NoviSphere PE 254 to ensure that we could deliver the best technology with the highest integrity, while never losing sight of how the product fits into our larger vision. To confirm that it could do what we needed it to, we enlisted the University of Minnesota to conduct independent tests, which verified that 99.99% eradication figure, and we’re proud to be able to stand behind those testing results. Moreover, we expect further testing in the coming year to validate NoviSphere PE 254’s effectiveness to 99.9999999%, or 1 part per billion. This will be a huge benefit for customers – even a 0.0001% failure rate sounds small, but with a lethal virus load, it’s more than enough to be fatal.

It’s exciting to be part of a company that is making this kind of game-changing technology available. Even more gratifying for me personally is the opportunity to participate in helping bring to life complete rarified environments that help keep people healthy and safe. Our next offering, which we look forward to sharing with you in the coming year, will take us further toward this goal. While ambitious, it’s one we’re confident we can bring to fruition, thanks to the talents and abilities of NoviSphere’s team of engineering, management and marketing experts.


The Air Down Here

By Paul Lockhart, CEO, NoviSphere

I grew up watching America’s quest to do what President Kennedy challenged our nation in 1961 to accomplish: land a man on the moon and safely return him to earth by the end of that decade. The Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs achieved that goal in 1969, with Neil Armstrong stepping off of the lunar lander Eagle and placing the first human footprints on another celestial body. The dramatic decade of rockets, televised launches and recoveries, high-tech equipment, and national pride offered everything a young boy seeking adventure could want. At age six, I knew I wanted to be an astronaut.

After I earned my graduate degree in aerospace engineering, I joined the Air Force to become a fighter and test pilot. In 1996, I achieved my goal: I became one of the fortunate few selected by NASA for the astronaut program.

Space flight is exciting, but also difficult and dangerous. Arguably, the most basic, most important problem to solve in space is that of maintaining clean, breathable air. During my two missions as pilot of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, I operated a number of the critical systems during launch, on-orbit and during return to earth that underscored this challenge.

For one, on-orbit, I was responsible for the lithium hydroxide (LiOH) canisters used to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the shuttle’s breathing air. As you can imagine, having seven astronauts breathing in Endeavour’s oxygen supply and exhaling the CO2, with no outside source of fresh air, created a dangerous build-up of CO2 within the orbiter. We used the LiOH canisters to scrub the CO2 from the shuttle’s air supply. My job, in conjunction with NASA’s ground engineers, was to properly track the canisters and swap them out on a daily basis to maintain good, clean air that allowed our crew to operate at maximum efficiency.

I also served as the Intra-Vehicular Astronaut (IVA) for six spacewalks, responsible for suiting up the two astronauts conducting the spacewalks and performing work outside of the International Space Station or the shuttle. The IVA is responsible for the health of the two other astronauts and helps them perform their work by continuously observing, operating checklists and coordinating their activities safely and efficiently. Again, air supply is a critical consideration – getting astronauts ready to exit the space station or shuttle is a long process, most of which entails preparing their bodies to breath clean air at the proper pressure. During spacewalks, their air supply is closely monitored, and, just as with the shuttle or space station, the CO2 must be scrubbed to prevent a build-up in their space suits. During ingress back into the shuttle or station at the end of the spacewalks, the whole process must be reversed, and the astronauts must slowly acclimate themselves to the shuttle or station air supply.

I took to heart the lessons I learned from these missions regarding the critical nature of maintaining clean air as I moved on to pursue new career ventures.

After having returned to the Air Force for several years to support the nation in the difficult period post-9/11, I retired from the military in 2007 and entered the private sector. At Vencore, which provided technical engineering and services to NASA and the Air Force, I served as senior VP, leading the space technology team. Having benefited personally from the efforts of thousands of devoted NASA support personnel, my job at Vencore allowed me to give back, helping enable younger NASA astronauts to fly and complete the International Space Station.

I left Vencore in 2015 and joined PEMDAS, launched in 2008 by my wife, Mary Lockhart, to deliver atmospheric sensors and Big Data analytics to the Department of Defense – specifically, units that operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), i.e., drones. As a former acting director of the Air Force Weather Agency, Mary is a proponent of using atmospheric information to better support drones’ remote or autonomous operation. This cutting-edge work involves significant research and development, which, as director of engineering, I was able to facilitate using my aerospace, flight test and research skills, overseeing development of atmospheric air sensors and satellite antennas.

In this position, I further advanced my understanding of how pollutants, particulates and aerosols contaminate air environments. Moreover, I gained appreciation for what it takes to run a small business, including the effort, persistence and determination needed to overcome challenges, grow and mature. What I learned at PEMDAS will serve me extremely well at NoviSphere.

My experiences in the military, government service and the private sector have taught me that leadership built on integrity and trust is key to the success of any venture. Solid leadership is integral to an organization’s cohesion and its ability to deliver goods and services that the consumer trusts and respects. I am pleased to join forces with our COO, Joe Cestari, and Cindy Egnarski, our director of business development and marketing, in leading NoviSphere. With their knowledge and emphasis on developing products of the highest quality, safety and ease of use, our company will become known an international leader in delivering turnkey, rarified, ultraclean environments, providing safety and security wherever it’s needed.