Final Report: Photo‐electro‐catalytic Nano‐air Filtration

EPA Contract Number: EPD15027
Title: Photo‐electro‐catalytic Nano‐air Filtration
Investigators: Goswami, Dilip
Small Business: Advanced Technologies & Testing Laboratories Inc.
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through February 29, 2016
Project Amount: $98,931
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Air and Climate , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)

Description:

This is a project to develop a self-­‐regenerative nano air filtration technology to not only remove gaseous pollutants from air but also destroy them and regenerate the filter. It is based on the Photo-­‐electro-­‐chemical air filtration platform, which has already been developed into a highly effective air disinfection product by the company. The concept is based on trapping the gaseous pollutants in a closely packed nano-­‐tubes of a catalytic material with an aspect ratio which would be highly effective in adsorbing and trapping the gaseous molecules and then oxidizing them in-­‐situ by the photo-­‐electro-­‐chemical technology. The project plan includes synthesizing the proposed nano-­‐structures of the proposed catalytic materials, characterize them, incorporate them in a test reactor and test them for effectiveness in a laboratory test chamber. Based on the results of this development, a device would be designed, which would be constructed, tested and commercialized in the Phase II of the project.

The Phase I project consisted of the following 5 tasks:

  1. Synthesis of nanostructured photocatalytic material
  2. Characterization of the nanomaterials
  3. Test of volatile gas remediation using the nanostructured material in a test chamber
  4. Design of a nanofiltration device based on the developed hollow nanostructured photocatalyst
  5. Life Cycle Assessment of nanostructured material

Summary of Findings

Nanotubes of TiO2 were prepared using the autoclaving and anodic oxidation methods and were found to consistently yield TiO2 nanotubes with little evidence of the presence of other phases. Scanning electron microscope (SEM) imaging was performed on the nanostructures both before and after deposition onto a substrate for photocatalytic reactor testing.

Samples for testing in the photocatalytic reactor were prepared by applying the nanostructured photocatalyst material on a roughened metal substrate. Acetone was chosen as the test contaminant for assessing photocatalyst performance. Approximately 1 ppm of acetone was dispersed within the test chamber. After the concentration of acetone around the probe was shown to stabilize at approximately 1 ppm, the black light lamps within the reactor were activated, and the degradation response was monitored. The performance of this catalyst showed a 32% improvement over the performance with pure P25.

A nano-­‐catalyst filter was designed and built. A device based on this nano-­‐catalyst filter was also designed, which included a pre-­‐filter, a nano-­‐catalyst filter, a bank of LED lights and a fan in a frame with electrical controls for controlling the fan speed and the lights. Twenty prototype devices were sent to beta testers to get their feedback on the design and
effectiveness of the device. A prototype with a new industrial design was also developed for the marketing team. The final design of the device, which will be completed in the Phase II will be based on the feedback from the beta testers and the marketing team.

A life cycle study was conducted to provide an understanding of the environmental impacts of the innovative nano-­‐air filtration device for gaseous pollutant removal from indoor air.
The study followed the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) methodological framework for environmental impact assessment, including Goal and Scope Definition, Inventory Analysis, Impact assessment, and Interpretation. A life cycle inventory was developed for the nano catalyst manufacture and also for an air filtration device based on the developed nano-­‐catalyst. The study included the production phase and the operation phase, including nano-­‐catalyst production, manufacture of the air filtration device, electricity usage during use, as well as their waste streams. The operation phase of the nano-­‐filtration device, including electricity usage over 10 years, showed the highest overall impact, mainly due to electricity use. The impact of nano-­‐material production showed the least environmental impacts due to its negligible amount of requirement as well as its recyclability.

Conclusions

A method was developed to synthesize nano tubes of the photocatalyst material. A formulation of the nano catalyst produced by this method was used in a laboratory device and tested for performance. The new catalyst improved the performance over the conventional P25 TiO2 catalyst by 32%. Based on the results of this development, prototypes were built and sent to beta testers for feedback. Based on the feedback, an air cleaning device will be designed, constructed, tested and commercialized in the Phase II of the project.

Commercialization Plan

Based on the research results, market potential, and feedback from the beta testers, a significant amount of venture funding was received, from top silicon valley venture firms. This allowed us to hire our marketing and business development staff. The brand strategy work resulted in a unique positioning under the “Molekule” brand that allows for significant differentiation within the air purification market. A plan was developed to design the ecommerce web experience for the launch of a consumer device first, which will be followed by the launch of a commercial scale system.