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NASA-developed Airocide tech cleans household air


March 20, 2013

Using a photo-catalytic reaction, the Airocide purifier (left) is claimed to neutralize airborne pollutants

Using a photo-catalytic reaction, the Airocide purifier (left) is claimed to neutralize airborne pollutants

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Some time ago, astronauts on the International Space Station needed a way to eliminate the ethylene gas that was being produced by plants growing aboard the station. NASA collaborated with the University of Wisconsin, and the result was an air-purifying system known as Airocide. Flash forward to the present, and that technology has been licensed for use in a household product that reportedly eliminates all sorts of airborne nasties.

Airocide purifiers have actually been in use in places such as grocery stores and food-packing plants since 1998, and were introduced to medical settings such as hospitals in 2003. Now they're finding their way into the home for the first time.

Each Airocide unit incorporates a reaction chamber that contains thousands of tiny glass rings coated inside and out with titanium dioxide (TiO2). With the help of a high-intensity light, the TiO2 produces hydroxyls. When airborne organic molecules are drawn in and make contact with those hydroxyls, the carbon bonds in those molecules are broken.

In this way, virtually any organic compound passing through the reaction chamber is rendered inert. The hydroxyls are tethered to the TiO2 surface, and can’t escape from the chamber. No ozone or other gases are released, no chemical additives are used (besides the already-present TiO2), and nothing needs to be cleaned out. The reaction chamber does need to be replaced approximately once a year, however.

According to the Airocide company, the purifiers are almost 100 percent effective at neutralizing biological pollutants like mold, fungi, pollen, dust mites, viruses and bacteria, along with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are given off from materials such as carpeting and paint.

The Airocide purifier will set you back US$799, with replacement chambers running at $99 a pop. A Google search under "hydroxyl purifier" will reveal some similar products, should you wish to shop around.

Source: Airocide via Uncrate

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

It's very cool and looks great. Sadly, I must resist the urge to buy one and open my windows instead.


$800 plus... like one but way to expensive. I will open my window and suffer if I have too.. Bring the price down and we will talk..

S Michael

Maybe someone will rent them to people who have mold issues being addressed by a contractor to give temporary relief while work is done. Companies who have high absences due to sick building syndrome might buy them.

Snake Oil Baron

Sambo, considering the product has been on the market for 15 years , 10 years in hospitals , I think any nasty byproducts that might be produced would have been found by now. quid pro quo , no worries mate. For the tight wads complaining about price, you may have the luxury of being able to just open the window, but for many around the globe living in polluted cities that is the last thing you want to do. And even if you dont live in Beijing but somewhere much nicer, Kyushu in Japan for example, tough luck as all the crap in the air in China blows over to ruin your day. Likewise if you are in the middle of an influenza epidemic and its minus 20 outside, you wont open the window. I will definitely be googling this and getting one. For clean air and better health for my family its a small price to pay.



Of course you open the windows when you have flu and you do not have the forced ventilation.

Minus 20 is nothing. Of course you will be deep under blankets when you do this and it would make sense that you let somebody else to open the window.

Kris Lee

Um, there seem to be a number of misconceptions in this article. I'll cut to the chase: go buy a few indoor houseplants - it will do as good or better a job at removing nasty stuff, and will cost you about 3200% less than this gizmo.

Ok, first misconception: There aren't enough plants growing up on the ISS to produce anything other than negligible amounts of ethylene gas. What ethylene exists up there is mostly emitted by decaying fruits and vegetable matter - namely, from their decaying food waste. But that's beside the point. Ethylene is NOT toxic. It's a plant hormone, essentially.

The nasty stuff they rightly worried about on the ISS (and Shuttle, when it was flying) are the LOTS of Volatile Organic Compounds constantly being emitted from all that plastic and stuff. VOCs include benzene, formaldehyde, perchloroethylene (maybe this one is what confuses people - but that's very different stuff than ethylene!). Many or most of these are thought to be carcinogenic. Basically, you definitely don't want to be inhaling it any more than you have to.

I have no idea about how well this Airocide purifier works - it probably does. But if you're worried about inhaling VOCs (and you probably should be), go out to your garden store and buy a few indoor plants. In fact, NASA did an air study back in the 70s and 80s to figure out how to reduce VOCs on space stations, and figured out that ferns and other plants are very effective at removing them from the air. Google "NASA Clean Air Study" and you'll find all the data you need. Or there's a Wikipedia article called "List of air-filtering plants".

Basically, go buy a couple of ferns, a hanging basket of Pothos, and a small palm tree. All you need, and will set you back about $25 instead of $800 (with additional running costs of another $100/yr).


Tiki808 is right. If you want to experience massively high VOC pollution just so you know how to recognize it (it stinks!), visit your neighborhood Harbor Freight store (or the auto section of your favorite Walmart). The Chinese outgassing in these places should be illegal. These would be great places to test your fern plant idea.

BTW, Amazon has a hydroxyl air cleaner good for a 200 sq ft room for only $222. Just search for "hydroxyl".


@Kris Lee

I didn't write that I had the flu, I said in the middle of a flu endemic so you want to keep the outside out. Especially if at the same time a smog cloud from Beijing is coming through with 40x the legal international limit for all sorts of nasty crap.

Problem with ferns is they invariably raise the humidity a lot. Normally that's good if bugs are in the air as once it gets to around 60% it really slows them down. But killing them is better. Too much humidity breeds mold though and concrete apartment buildings where I live are constantly fighting it because of the almost year round high humidity.

And thanks very much wags the dog, $222 is much nicer.

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