Why thermal inactivation of airborne viruses could become a life-style
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COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of air biosecurity because SARS-CoV-2 is mainly transmitted from person to person via airborne droplets. Preventing infectious droplets from entering the body is one of the best ways to protect against infection. In his paper, published at the Applied Thermal Engineering Journal, Mikhail S. Vlaskin, head of the Laboratory of Energy Accumulating Materials at the Joint Institute for High Temperatures of the Russian Academy of Sciences, reviews the transmission patterns of airborne pathogens and air disinfection methods.

A particular emphasis is put on studies devoted to the thermal inactivation of viruses. These reviews reveal that air heat treatment has not been seriously considered as a possible air disinfection approach. Simple calculations show that the energy input required for thermal disinfection of human’s air daily consumption is almost the same as for daily water consumption (by heat treatment from room temperature to 100 °C). Moreover, it is possible to organize a continuous heat recovery from the air already heated during disinfection to the inlet air, thus significantly increasing the energy efficiency.

Therefore, Mr. Vlaskin proposed a solution for the thermal inactivation of airborne pathogens based on air heating and its subsequent cooling in a heat exchanger with heat recovery. Such a solution could be used to create mobile personal and stationary indoor air disinfectors, as well as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Thermal disinfection of air to breathe might one day be part of people’s daily life like thermal disinfection of drinking water. Aside from limiting infectious disease transmission, thermal inactivation might be the basis for developing inhaled vaccines using thermally inactivated whole pathogens.

The article is available at ScienceDirect.

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