The Corona Crisis is having a major or even critical impact on small and medium-sized enterprises, which need quick, practicable and scientifically proven solutions to reduce the transmission of viruses via aerosols on their premises. They also need advice on suitable and effective modifications to hygiene and ventilation concepts in their businesses. However, suppliers and manufacturers of air cleaning systems and equipment are hardly aware of the technical criteria that are required, such as ventilation performance, or of the local conditions for installation, operation, and maintenance. This is where the »Healthy Air Initiative« comes into play. The network of Fraunhofer institutes and other partners pursues an integrated concept of research, knowledge transfer and networking that can offer companies individual and effective help.
The »Healthy Air Initiative« aims at providing companies with quick, practical, and scientifically proven solutions to reduce the transmission of viruses via aerosols. With this in mind, practicable ventilation concepts for aerosol prevention will be developed and contact points for advice will be set up as part of three project phases.
The three pillars of the Healthy Air Initiative
▪ In the first phase, new advisory centers for users are being set up at various Fraunhofer institutes. These will serve as a contact point for small and medium-sized enterprises with questions about ventilation concepts and air cleaning technologies. Mainly digital advice will be provided. In addition, the advisory centers share their practical experience in order to cover the information needs of suppliers and manufacturers of air cleaning equipment and systems.
▪ The second phase is directed at manufacturers and includes the operation of test environments as well as the execution of tests to assess the effectiveness of air cleaning technologies. The latter is done in particular using surrogate viruses, special model viruses that behave similarly to SARS-CoV-2 but are harmless to humans and the environment. The results can be directly transferred to SARS-CoV-2. The goal is to obtain reliable results on the effectiveness of air cleaning technologies as quickly as possible to avoid infections.
▪ In the third and final phase, scientific studies will be realised on the effectiveness of mobile and stationary air cleaning systems, which reduce infectious viruses in the air and thus limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
Basis for future developments
The knowledge gained from the research program will not only be useful in reducing the coronavirus load in rooms, but also offers valuable starting points for future research and developments. The concepts can also be transferred to other viruses and air pollutants.
Current status of the project
The »Healthy Air Initiative« has been approved by the Council of Ministers of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labor and Housing of Baden-Württemberg. At the beginning of 2021, the focus will be on setting up, organizing, and communicating the digital advisory formats. The advisory services will be gradually developed over the course of the spring and extended to include manufacturers of ventilation and air cleaning products.
Parallel to the expansion of the advisory service, test environments and protocols for characterizing the effectiveness of innovative air cleaning technologies will be further developed. The operation of test environments and execution of tests to assess the effectiveness of air cleaning technologies is planned for the second quarter of 2021.
Throughout the duration of the »Healthy Air Initiative«, new findings, publications, and information on air cleaning technologies as well as infection risks due to airborne viruses will be collected, structured, and evaluated. This information will be made available as part of a product-neutral information service on the suitability and correct use of air cleaning technologies.