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NUS develops new air filtration system

A team at the National University of Singapore has developed an indoor air filtration system touted as being twice as effective as regular air purifiers -- and they will hit the shelves soon.

SINGAPORE: With the haze possibly on the horizon again, a new locally-developed market alternative to air filtration systems will soon hit the shelves.

The indoor air filtration system was developed by a team at the National University of Singapore (NUS), and is touted as being twice as effective as regular air purifiers.

At first glance, it looks like just a regular fan, but it's actually an air filtration system.

It targets PM2.5 -- particles that are smaller than the width of a human hair.

Short-term effects of inhaling such particles include eye and lung irritation.

Longer term, it could lead to serious illnesses such as lung and bladder cancer.

"I was at home trying to innovate and protect my children from high haze exposure indoors," said Dr Jeff Obbard, Dept of Civil & Environmental Engineering, NUS. "And I realised quite quickly that there were no air purifiers left in stores so I started playing around at home with the fans I had and basically came up with a basic system there and then and thought perhaps I can develop this further at the university."

The system will be suitable for areas such as classrooms, homes and dormitories.

It traps pollutants, before re-circulating clean air.

It can do this 13 times an hour, 13 times more often than regular air purifiers.

The NUS team took about 10 months to develop the system, and that includes testing it in the harshest of environments.

"We decided to go over to Pekanbaru in Riau province, where a lot of the haze in Singapore comes from, and worked in real haze conditions," said Dr Obbard. "And quite sadly what we found was in a school classroom, children were working at levels of pollution up to nine times over the world's health standard.

"And that really spurred me on to develop this system and do something for them."

And so, from the middle of next month, consumers will be able to purchase it -- in three variations -- online, and there are plans to roll them it at convenience stores soon after.

It will be marketed and sold by AiRazor Technologies, an NUS spin-off company.

The product will also be launched in Taiwan, China and Indonesia, markets that have what AiRazor called 'immediate needs'.

Prices start from 150 dollars.

Consumers also have the option of retrofitting existing fans for 50 dollars; disposable, replacement filters will cost 30 dollars each.

During a haze crisis, developers estimate that filters will have to be changed about once a week.

Andrew Yap, Managing Director, AiRazor Technologies says that his company is prepared to meet demand for the filters.

"We are bringing in the first two thousand units with the hope that it will fly off the shelves and we will be ready with the next thousands of units within the coming weeks," he said. "So we are hoping that we can deliver about a hundred thousand a month."

Next up for the company: developing masks that make air safe to breathe in yet fit more comfortably than existing market options.  

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