Neck-worn air purifier helps tube users breathe easy

A Loughborough University student has created an air purifier that is worn around the neck, designed to filter the high levels of particulate matter found on underground rail networks.

Loughborough University

Known as Aerate, the prototype device creates a clean bubble of air around a user's face, with two fans passing air through Spunbond Polypropylene (SBPP) filters. These filters can capture particulate matter as small as 2.5 micrometers, which is about 30 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

Breathing in unhealthy levels of PM2.5 has been linked to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as cognitive impairments. In underground train environments, PM2.5 levels often exceed World Health Organization defined limits. Mia Patterson Cox, the Industrial Design and Technology graduate who created Aerate, became aware of the extent of the pollution problem during her placement year in London as she frequently used the tube to get around the city.

“I often thought about the hot stuffy environment and would be concerned when I found dust around my nostrils after travelling on underground trains”, said Patterson Cox. “It made me feel uneasy about the time I spent in the network, prompting me to explore the problem of pollution.

“I wanted to create a product that will increase commuter and passengers’ health confidence when travelling underground by removing iron-rich particles in the air.”

- Loughborough University

The fans propel purified air in front of the user's face at 5500 rotations per minute, creating a continuous flow that creates a protective barrier against harmful particles during underground travel. As well as protecting the user, Aerate aims to enhance air quality for other commuters as well as build a picture of particulate pollution across underground networks.

"I purposely didn’t want to create a product that benefited only the users,” said Patterson Cox. “By continuously filtering out iron particles and other pollutants, Aerate contributes to a healthier environment for all passengers travelling on underground trains.”

In addition to the wearable product, Aerate also features an app that connects to a particle sensor within the device, which could provide live data on particle exposure across the tube network. The app also tells users when it is time to change their filters, which are effective for up to 40 hours of use.