Working to improve air pollution in towns and cities

Air pollution is a growing problem in towns and cities around the world. But a team at Tech Air Solutions are attempting to improve the situation by developing a set of 'smart bollards', which clean the air at locations where there are a high density of traffic and people.

About Microtech Filters

Co-Founder, Andrew Thompson, explains how the idea came about:

“It all started when I saw a BBC Inside Out programme that said at McDonalds drive-throughs, air quality was 25% worse than elsewhere. I conducted my own research into air pollution and found out that, while a lot of councils are now measuring air quality levels, few are doing anything to improve air quality directly.”

“So, working with Paddy Moore and my colleagues at Microtech Filters, we produced the idea of smart bollards fitted with filters, fans, and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, which could improve the surrounding air quality. We thought they could be positioned at high-density traffic hotspots, such as schools, drive-throughs, train stations, schools, and bus stops.”

The company developed an oversized prototype to test the concept. The bollard draws in air, monitors it, cleans it via a filter and then pumps it back out. Early tests were positive, indicating that the device could reduce particulate matter 2.5 by up to 40%. However, Andrew wanted to better understand the science behind it and gather evidence.

Why did they engage with DE-Carbonise

Having worked with the University before through the Invest to Grow scheme, Andrew approached our organisation again in early 2021. The firm was awarded 70 hours of fully funded research time through our DE-Carbonise Project, a project set up to help local SMEs increase sustainability.

Dr Hirbod Varasteh, Low Carbon Researcher, supported by Dr Shahed Motaman, Lecturer in Motorsport Engineering, produced a CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) model of the bollard to simulate air flow through the filter and estimate the performance of it. The aim was also to optimise energy use. The researchers then made recommendations on how to improve air flow pattern, design, and performance.

What has been the impact of working with DE-Carbonise?

“The CFD model was fantastic for us; it was instrumental. It showed how particulates move through the bollard, their velocity and how they are distributed when they come out, within two cubic metres. We know from this that we can locate the bollards approximately four metres apart to achieve optimal improvements in air quality. This research model provides important evidence to show interested parties."

Next Steps

“The researchers also made some recommendations about how to make the fan more efficient and reduce the load on it, and we aim to take those recommendations forward in the next phase.”

Tech Air Solutions is now planning to develop the solution, so it automatically switches on when the air quality reaches a certain threshold and switches off again when it improves sufficiently.

About DE-Carbonise

DE-Carbonise is a three year collaboration between the University of Derby, Derby City Council and Derbyshire County Council, which started in November 2019. The collaboration is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and follows on from the successful D2 Energy Efficiency/Low Carbon project.

Logo's for European Union Regional Development Fun, Derby City Council, Derbyshire County Council and Midlands Engine.

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