The University of Washington this month received a U.S. patent for a new air filtration technology that can remove airborne pollution — including viruses such as the novel coronavirus — while using half the energy and with lower maintenance costs than other systems.
The technology is being turned into air filtering devices for residential and commercial use by Agentis Air, a Columbus, Md.-based startup. The company is a spinoff of the University of Washington’s CoMotion innovation hub.
“There’s a lot of interest in the need for improving indoor air quality,” said Larry Rothenberg, president of Agentis Air. “It’s not just the virus and pathogens — that is the most recent pressure. Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of research on the impact of airborne particles on overall health.”
Air pollution in general is linked to heart disease, asthma, dementia and higher rates of death with COVID-19. The company is working with third-party pathogen testing facilities to quantify the ability to remove indoor, airborne viruses and bacteria with its devices.
Agentis Air uses electrostatic filtration, a proven technology that gives particles in the air an electrical charge, then catches and holds them on charged metal plates. But instead of plates, the startup has created a dense foam in which the pollutants become trapped. In other devices, the plates need to be frequently cleaned of the particles, which can sometimes fall off and repollute the air. With the new technology, a collection cartridge containing the foam core is easily removed and replaced.
Another approach to cleaning the air is using a physical filter that air is pushed through (akin to breathing through an N95 face mask), but it requires larger amounts of energy to push the air and the filters can clog. The foam catches the particles like a traditional filter, but the pollution primarily flows across or parallel to the foam surface, not through it, and is pulled into the foam.
The new Agentis Air technology can also be adjusted to offer increased or decreased levels of filtration depending on need.
Four years ago, the startup announced that it had raised $1.25 million in seed funding and prepared to begin selling air filters the following year, but the plan was delayed.
“We just took a longer time than planned raising this next round of funding,” said Rothenberg, who declined to say how much they’d raised to date. “Consumer product development is not an easy space to raise money.”
Norm Long, an experienced player in the HVAC industry, has since joined the company as CEO. Krichtafovitch is the director of research and development.
Agentis Air worked with Seattle’s Product Creation Studio to design and engineer a filtration product for the residential market. It should be available to purchase later this year; Rothenberg said they are still settling on the price.
The startup is looking for third-party partners to work with to apply the technology to commercial applications.
The UW Sensors, Energy, and Automation Laboratory developed the technology under the direction of Krichtafovitch. Agentis Air is the exclusive licensee of the UW patent, which is described as a “broad platform patent.”