Study of pathogen transfer through membranes for energy exchangers to reduce airborne transmission of COVID‑19 in buildings
The airborne transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, has received little attention, even though airborne transmission of other respiratory pathogens is known (e.g., SARS-CoV-1 and tuberculosis). Exhaled aerosols containing the SARS-CoV-2 virus are expected to be 1 to 5 micrometers in size, which means they may remain airborne for hours and can be transported long distances (up to 100 m indoors and even further within air ducts). Thus, heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems play an important role in the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and other pathogens.
Airborne transmission may be reduced by increasing the supply of fresh outdoor air to a building, which is called ventilation. Air-to-air energy exchangers are in integral part of ventilation systems because they reduce the energy required for conditioning the ventilation air. As ventilation rates are increased during pandemics to reduce the transmission of pathogens, it is critical to quantify pathogen transfer in energy exchangers. This project focuses on membrane-based air-to-air energy exchanger.
The goal of this research is to quantify pathogen transfer through membranes that are suitable for membrane exchangers. The proposed research is based on our previous research experience on gaseous contaminant transfer, heat transfer, moisture transfer and frosting of various types of membrane-based energy exchangers. This proposed project entails building a small-scale test facility to measure pathogen transfer through membranes. The effect of membrane properties and operating conditions (temperature and humidity) on pathogen transfer will be determined.
The project will lead to a new membrane-based exchanger manufactured by Aldes Canada, which minimizes pathogen transfer to maintain a healthy indoor environment while reducing energy consumption. This will benefit Canada’s economy and reduce the risk for the airborne transfer of infectious diseases in Canadian buildings.
The project will lead to a new membrane-based exchanger manufactured by Aldes Canada, which minimizes pathogen transfer to maintain a healthy indoor environment while reducing energy consumption. This will benefit Canada’s economy and reduce the risk for the airborne transfer of infectious disease in Canadian buildings.