By Kim Boram
SEOUL, July 23 (Yonhap) — When the air quality is poor, people often close their windows and doors and turn on an air purifier.
However, experts point out that when all the windows and doors are shut, the levels of indoor air pollution increase due to pet dander, cooking and other short-term activities.
To improve and safeguard indoor air quality, the South Korean government made it compulsory for local builders to fit new apartments with a ventilation system in 2006.
An air intake vent, typically located on the balcony of an apartment residence, sucks in the ambient air and then provides clean fresh air into the home through multiple exhaust outlets in the ceiling.
Harry Yun, CEO of Korean startup VBolta Filter, said the mandatory ventilation system supplies fresh air into the residence, but the air is possibly polluted by dirt, viruses or even insects while passing through contaminated ducts.
“Three years after the completion of the building, the ducts become dirty and the air coming through the pipes becomes polluted too,” he said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Monday.
“It’s hard to clean the ducts inside the walls and ceiling. The most efficient and straightforward way to have clean air at home is to filter the air at the air outlets in the ceiling.”
To this end, Yun, a former researcher at a research center under the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, created the VBolta filter in 2016, an electromagnetic air filter using polarity through which nearly all atoms can attract electrons with force, and set up a company to manufacture it last year.
In a sheet made of chemical compounds like ethylene and propylene, tens of thousands of electronegative and electropositive electrons in the filter draw their opposite electrons present in fine dust and viruses and absorbs them.
Yun said the VBolta filter works without an electric power supply, outperforming the high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which is a widely used air filter installed in most air ventilation devices like air conditioners.
“The HEPA filter is made of layers of thick fibers that create a narrow convoluted air pathway and blocks the particles from passing through. Its performance varies in line with the filter’s thickness,” he said. “But at the same time, the thickness impedes the air from flowing and demands a powerful motor to draw in the air.”
But he stressed the VBolta filter, powered by electron polarity, captures dirt and viruses on its own without a motor or a fan. So it can be easily installed and removed.
“If you want to install HEPA filters in your apartment vents, it’s a big mess. You have to open up the ceiling and set up electricity cables,” he said. “But using our VBolta filter isn’t a big deal.”
His company offers a 15 centimeter round air diffuser cover equipped with a roll of VBolta filter and users can replace the old one as if they are changing a light bulb in the ceiling.
“The filter can be changed every year in residential settings,” he said. “If you want to use it again, you just wash the filter in water and dry it with a dryer. But its performance decreases some 30 percent.”
After years of research and development, Yun is now about to start a retail business to sell the VBolta filter.
He predicted demand for the filter will be high as an increasing number of people are interested in indoor air quality, citing a report by the World Health Organization that household air pollution was responsible for an estimated 3.2 million deaths per year in 2020.
“These days, people spend more than 80 percent of their time indoors every day. Indoor air quality is a matter of life,” he said. “Our first goal is to reach 10 billion won (US$7.9 million) in sales in the next three years.”