Laser-induced graphene to help filter COVID-19 from air

Active air filters made with laser-induced graphene are set to be rolled out to rid air of organic particles and viruses such as COVID-19.

Active air filters
Dr Chris Arnusch (centre) and team at the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research (Image: BGU)

The technology – developed by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel in partnership with Rice University in Houston, Texas – is being commercialised by LIGC Application Ltd, which has developed a technology for producing and patterning porous graphene foam using a commercially available laser in ambient temperature. China’s Hubei Forbon Technology Co. Ltd. provided $3m in funding.

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“For the past five years, our lab at BGU’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research has focused on the development of LIG, specifically in antimicrobial filtration and environmental applications,” said Dr. Chris Arnusch. “We are excited to be commercialising our technology in a number of air filtration products for COVID-19 and other specialised filtration applications.”

LIGC Co-founder and CEO Yehuda Borenstein said: “In the absence of better filtration technology, the indoor spaces where we used to spend most of our ‘normal’ life – schools, stores and workplaces – due to COVID-19 present a real risk. This technology will provide cleaner and more breathable air with lower energy and maintenance costs and virtually silent sound levels.”

Active air filters made with LIG are designed to damage and destroy organic particles including bacteria, mould spores and viruses at the micron and sub-micron levels when passed through a microscopic network of porous graphene.

According to BGU, this cost-effective and scalable approach is produced using commercially available CO2 lasers to create a conductive graphene mesh. The graphene mesh heats, electrocutes and neutralises organic particles and pathogens with much improved efficiency compared to active carbon filters, UV-C and fibre HEPA filters that are used widely in schools, offices, homes, ships, and other facilities. Aircraft are already equipped with HEPA filters that remove viruses and bacteria from the circulated cabin air, but at high energy and maintenance costs.

BGU add that since the LIGC filter uses low voltage electricity to eliminate bacteria and viruses, lower density filtration media can be used, resulting in significantly less energy consumption.

“To understand the technology, imagine the porous graphene is an electric fence that functions like a mosquito zapper at the submicron level,” Bornstein said in a statement. “When an airborne bacteria or virus touches the graphene surface, it is shocked at a low voltage and currents that are safe for use. While 2020 has highlighted the importance of protecting against airborne viruses, the post-pandemic world will likely show us how important it is to do so without increasing energy costs past the point of affordability.”