21 November 2014

Innovation award for inventor of natural air cleaner

Innovation Award

University of Copenhagen has presented its Innovation Award 2014 to Matthew Johnson who is a professor of environmental chemistry at Department of Chemistry, UCPH. Johnson has invented a natural, inexpensive and versatile method to clean polluted air, and since 2013 he has been heavily involved in assisting the company INFUSER A/S with bringing the invention to the market.

New method eliminates discomforts and prevents death

Every year 3.3 million people die before their time due to polluted air but every day even more people are bothered by unpleasant smells from industrial production. Johnson's invention, Gas Phase Advanced Oxidation (GPAO), removes harmful compounds, dangerous particles and unpleasant smells in a process inspired by the ability of the atmosphere to rid itself of polluting gasses.

"In nature, air is cleaned in a process involving ozone, sunshine and rain. Apart from the rainwater, GPAO does exactly the same!

Matthew Johnson

Professor of environmental chemistry

Department of Chemistry

University of Copenhagen

Efficient low energy cleaning with no filters

It is notoriously difficult to remove pollution from air. Earlier systems to combat air pollution are heavily energy intensive, in part because they either burn or freeze the polluting gasses, or they require frequent maintenance because their filters need changing. GPAO requires little energy, less maintenance and uses no filters. None the less, the method is capable of removing almost all forms of industrial emissions.

“As a chemist I have examined the natural ability of the atmosphere to clean itself. In nature, air is cleaned in a process involving ozone, sunshine and rain. Apart from the rainwater, GPAO does exactly the same. We have merely accelerated the process by approximately 100,000 times” says Johnson.

Everything from solvents to "rotten egg" smells

Johnson and his team have shown that GPAO is capable of removing solvent vapours from fiberglass production and from a foundry emitting benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene. Another series of measurements have proven that the sulfur based “rotten egg” smell from pig sheds and wastewater treatment plants is easily removed as are smells from breweries, bakeries, foodstuff production, slaughterhouses and other process industries. And it does not stop there, says Professor Johnson.

“Because the system “eats” dust, it also removes harmful particles such as pollen, fungal spores and vira”, explains Johnson, who hopes to see his system introduced in all forms of industry.

Honour, art and money in the prize

Apart from the honour, the innovation award consists of a work of art and a bankers cheque for 10,000 DKK. It is presented by the UCPH Prorector for research and innovation, Thomas Bjørnholm, and is given to researchers or research groups who are members of staff at UCPH and have gone out of their way to build bridges between academia and industry. The winner is selected by representatives from the Confederation of Danish Industry, the think tank DEA, UCPH and a foreign university (This year, University of Leuven, Belgium)