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AERIALL: development of an air filtering device based on aluminum foam, aiming lower pressure drop, to save energy in HVAC systems in commercial buildings and hospital units

Abstract

Generalized nosocomial infection (SEPSE), a disproportionate immune system response to an infectious disease, is caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or protozoa. Most of these pathogens are partially airborne, a means of propagation that can also lead to contamination of sterile medical equipment. Surveys estimate global cases of SEPSE at 19.4 million/year, of which 27% lead to death - the main cause of death in ICU's, with Brazil having a higher percentage of deaths, around 55% of the 420,000 cases /year, showing that this is an especially important problem in the country. The cost generated by SEPSE, around US$ 30 billion/year in the US alone, also shows that this is a problem with important consequences for countries. One way of reducing the transportability of such pathogens is by controlling the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, responsible for the temperature and moisture content of the air, filtration (removal of dust and biological contaminants), ventilation (rates of renovation with outdoor air) and air distribution in the hospital environment. The necessary HVAC's account for a large portion of energy consumption in modern buildings. In countries with tropical climates, such as Brazil, the energy consumed can exceed 50% of the building's total energy consumption. The inadequate function of the HVAC, mainly in the humidity control and filter element, controlled by the air management unit (AHU), increases the incidence of airborne pathogens. This unit is composed of 3 main elements, namely, pre-filter, secondary filter and HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter, the objective of this project's study. Despite their efficiency, HEPA filters have disadvantages arising from their large thickness and density, interfering with the HVAC airflow, especially when saturated, with consequences on energy consumption and on the system's lifetime. Based on the above, the filter proposed in this project, called AERIALL, aims to provide the same efficiency in removing particles as HEPA filters (MERV-16) with lower energy consumption, a result of a smaller pressure difference - given related to airflow. The adoption of electrostatically charged anodized aluminum foam boards is ideal. Company estimates indicate a possibility of reducing the electricity consumption of HVAC systems by up to 5% with the adoption of the proposed technology. Furthermore, it is proposed the incorporation of silver nanoparticles through the process here called biocide anodization, providing the filter with a required biocide effect for application in hospital systems. Due to its mechanical and chemical resistance, the possibility of washing and reusing the filters will add value to the product, bringing benefits due to the longer lifespan compared to the HEPA filters currently used. Thus, the adoption of AERIALL technology will allow a reduction in the costs of electrical energy consumption of the HVAC system and the replacement of parts of the system with efficiency comparable to commercially consolidated filters. (AU)

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