According to the University of Copenhagen’s Prof. Matthew Johnson, approximately one-sixth of the energy consumed in the world is used for heating, cooling and dehumidifying air in buildings. Because that air accumulates toxins and pathogens, he explains, it must constantly be expelled and replaced with new air that’s drawn in from outside. That new air must then be heated, cooled and/or dehumidified all over again. If only the air already in buildings could be cleaned up and reused, far less energy would be used on continuously conditioning fresh air. That’s why Johnson has invented the Cleanair system.

“Every second we pump air into our houses that is too hot, too cold or too moist. And then we spend billions of kilowatts treating that air,” he said. “If we could clean the air, we could recycle air that already has the perfect temperature.”

Apparently, that’s what his system does. It involves a patented system called Photochemical Air Purification, which incorporates ultraviolet light and photochemical reactions similar to those that occur in the Earth’s atmosphere. This combination is said to remove particles, viruses, ozone, bacteria, organic solvents and hydrocarbons from indoor air, allowing buildings to reduce their energy use by up to 25 percent.

Within minutes of being turned on, Cleanair reportedly removed 40 different compounds from the air in an office building on the U Copenhagen campus. What percentage of those compounds remained in the air was not stated.

Needless to say, cleaner air not only saves money, but should also pose less of a health risk to the people who breathe it. To that end, Johnson is now looking into how effective his system would be at removing volatile organic compounds from industrial smokestack emissions.

Cleanair was unveiled to the public at last week’s World Climate Solutions conference in Copenhagen.

All images courtesy University of Copenhagen