USask researchers studying COVID transmission in HVAC systems

Carey Simonson

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) have received federal funding to research airborne virus transmission in ventilation systems. The project, funded by Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), is being led by Carey Simonson, along with industry partner Aldes Canada.

“SARS-CoV-2 virus may remain airborne for hours and can be transported tens of metres indoors, and even further within air ducts,” said Simonson. “We want to see whether airborne viruses in the exhaust air of buildings are returned to the fresh supply air used to ventilate and reduce contaminants in buildings.”

His research will focus on using a barrier membrane in air exchangers to prevent viruses and other pathogens from contaminating fresh air. Preliminary results will be available in six months. If successful, the membranes could be incorporated into air exchangers within a year.

Simonson is also working with colleague Jafar Soltan on testing the effectiveness and feasibility of using air sanitization devices to inactivate airborne pathogens in existing air conditioning systems.

“The research will improve indoor air quality, reducing the risk of spread of airborne pathogens in healthcare facilities, seniors’ residences and transit systems where maintaining adequate social distancing may be difficult,” said Soltan.