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University, Companies Partner on Air Cleaning Technology

Matthew Johnson (University of  Copenhagen)

Matthew Johnson (University of Copenhagen)

A chemistry professor at University of Copenhagen in Denmark is working with a Danish entrepreneur and waste processor to test a process for cleaning polluting particles from industrial emissions. Environmental chemist Matthew Johnson (pictured right) and the university have also patented the process he devised, which is based on on the natural ability of the Earth’s atmosphere to clean itself.

Johnson’s technology is called an atmospheric photochemical accelerator. His process emulates the way polluting gases, when exposed to sunlight, form into particles as they also interact with naturally occurring compounds such as ozone. In nature, rain serves as a cleaning mechanism that washes away these particles from the atmosphere.

In his research, Johnson studied this natural cleaning mechanism, and discovered that it was simple enough to package as a method to clean indoor air.  But it soon became evident, its real value was in cleaning industrial pollutants from outdoor air.

Johnson’s technology removes the pollutants from industrial processes, rather than diluting the pollutants in the surrounding atmosphere by sending them up a smokestack. Removing the need to build a tall chimmney also makes the process economically attractive. The technology requires no filters, which cuts down on maintenance, and consumes very little energy making it even more environmentally friendly.

Danish entrepreneur and investor Lars Nannerup saw the potential of a system based on Johnson’s technology for his new pollution-control business INFUSER A/s, based in Copenhagen. Adapting Johnson’s process, Nannerup’s company created a working commercial system. “This is an area where pure theory and good ideas are tested outside the very competent walls of the university,” says Nannerup. “And we have been extraordinarily successful.”

The company Jysk Miljoerens in Aarhus, Denmark served as a test site for the INFUSER system. Jysk Miljoerens separates oil from waste bilge water in ships, then captures the waste oil for recycling. That company’s waste treatment methods, however, generate annoying odors that damaged relations with its residential neighbors, which threatened to put the company out of business.

INFUSER installed the system based on Johnson’s technology, housed in five aluminium boxes, on the roof of the Jysk Miljoerens facility. Jysk Miljoerens CEO Bent Naldal says “It’s no big secret that we’ve faced challenges in getting rid of the smells originating in our treatment plant.” Naldal adds, “Unlike other solutions that we’ve investigated to combat smells and air pollution, we can now see that INFUSER delivered.”

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