USC proposes Low-cost Air Ventilation System for Face-to-Face Classes

For almost two years, the Filipino student has been taken away the liberty of enjoying classes face-to-face due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With the threat posed by the deadly disease being spread in close contact, online schooling became an alternative for many Filipino students. This is not to mention that children are also more vulnerable to the said disease, and the risk of transmission is high once they are crumpled in closed spaces such as a classroom setting.

Photo from Unsplash

Air filter technologies are recommended to solve this dilemma, where most have the features of reducing the viral load in the ambient air. But with this type of groundbreaking technology, this is still a challenge financially, particularly to the remote and far-flung public schools.

Developed by the team of Dr. Frank Helleis at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (MPIC) in Mainz, Germany, an alternative solution using a low-cost but high-efficiency air ventilating system technology is now being studied in the country as it has just recently been available in the region.

Schematic representation of the exhaust air system in a classroom | Photo from Andrea Koppenborg via USC Official Website

This is possible using a transfer agreement arranged by the GreenTech Initiative, a team that focuses on finding alternative environmental solutions, under the Enhanced EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument (E-READI), with the support of the European Commission’s Directorates General for Research and Innovation and for International Partnerships.

In partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the Universit of San Carlos has proposed to conduct research and pilot-test the air ventilating system designed to reduce the virus load in ambient air under local conditions.

The DOST has managed to secure a funding of up to EUR165T for a 12-month period, which was possible through the research and development program on emerging and re-emerging diseases of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) where upon completion of the tests, ASEAN Member States such as the Philippines will be one of the beneficiaries of the technology.

An example of simple exhaust air system for classrooms | Photo from Elena Klimach via Max Planck Institute Official Website

Entitled “Developing and Implementing Test Beds for Low-cost Ventilation Systems Applicable in Tropical Regions for Risk Reduction of Infectious Aerosol/Virus Transmission”, University of San Carlos’ proposal was selected for priority funding by the DOST PCHRD, in a letter dated October 1, 2021.

The low-cost ventilator system is designed to combat virus transmission in enclosed public spaces such as classrooms through the simple yet dramatic removal of respiratory aerosols, which potentially include coronavirus particles from indoor air. Deliberately designed for practical applications, the end users in mind are those who cannot afford higher technologies that involve air-filtration systems.

Photo from Unsplash

Furthermore, the system will be designed with the usage of readily available materials that are commonly bought in the market. Easy installation of the system was also taken into consideration, which can then be primarily used in open spaces such as classrooms, conference rooms, and sports halls.

Scientists and engineers from the prestigious University of San Carlos will be leading the project locally, with supervision and consultation with Dr. Helleis of MPIC. He will further study the system, perform the necessary modifications and fine-tuning of the design, to quickly adapt it for the tropical conditions and the typical building layouts of classrooms and other open learning spaces in the Philippines.

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