Paul Bemis, president and CEO. Courtesy photo.
As soon as it became clear that COVID-19 was an airborne illness, employers began asking about the safety of shared workspaces. Two entrepreneurs who were knowledgeable about indoor airflow, having worked in clean rooms and data centers, decided to develop a portable air cleaner that could allay those concerns.
Paul Bemis and Chris Ames, owners of Air Cleaners (aircleanersinc.com), a Bristol-based startup launched in June 2020, designed, developed and patented air cleaner technology that they claim suppresses the transmission of indoor pathogens like COVID-19.
The product they’ve created from that technology is Clean Air Curtain, which combines HEPA filtration and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation with an “air curtain.” Ames, who has decades of experience working with mission-critical facilities and data center infrastructure, says the HEPA filters capture 99.995% of particles, and ultraviolet rays then kill the germs within seconds. An air curtain then deflects airborne pathogens up and away from the area, he says. Ames says their desktop unit uses high velocity exhaust to blow air upward, creating a barrier between people.
The duo is marketing the Clean Air Curtain to a variety of industries, including schools, supermarkets, retailers, hotels, pubs and bars, auto dealers, medical offices, post offices, legislative chambers, airports and churches. Ames says Plymouth General Dentistry already deploys several of the devices at its practices.
Bemis, who previously formed Applied Math Modeling, a software firm that focused on air flow modeling for data centers, and Ames were initially inspired while doing pro bono work for the NH chapter of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineering in March of last year.
“A lot of facilities are not owned by the people in the building, and they have little control over what they do,” for ventilation, Bemis says. When COVID first struck, many companies were using plexiglass partitions, which require constant cleaning and do not address air flow, he says.
By late May, the duo had created a prototype and they were in full production by October using local contract manufacturers in Tilton and Somersworth.
The Clean Air Curtain is 24-inches wide, 12-inches deep and 8-inches tall. It weighs 30 pounds and retails for around $1,500. It shoots air up at a rate of about 2,500 feet per minute, breaking up pathogens floating in the air, says Bemis, who adds “the sound is low enough so you can still have a conversation.”
The company is already developing a second model with sensors that will indicate when to change filters, measure CO2 levels and provide data about air quality, which will be released later this year.