ASHRAE Research Investigates Photocatalytic Oxidation Technology

Aug. 28, 2007
Air-cleaning equipment featuring photocatalytic oxidation technology removes contaminants from the air ... but does this technology actually introduce chemicals into the air?
Air-cleaning equipment featuring new photocatalytic oxidation technology is used to remove contaminants from indoor and outdoor air. But, does this technology also introduce chemicals into the air?

New research from the Atlanta-based American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) will provide a method for analyzing by-products from photocatalytic oxidation (PCO) air-cleaning devices, improving understanding of the technology.

"This research will lead to a new generation of air cleaners that have both low energy operation and low release of chemicals," says Carolyn Kerr, a member of ASHRAE's Technical Committee (TC) 2.3, Gaseous Air Contaminants and Gas Contaminant Removal Equipment, which is overseeing the project. "This will assist in providing an optimal indoor environment for buildings, vehicles and facilities for comfort, health, and productivity of occupants."

PCO, used for removal of gaseous contaminants, requires less energy to operate than many existing filter systems, according to Kerr. In the best-case scenario, all of the contaminants removed are converted to non-threatening levels of carbon dioxide and water; however, the contaminant conversion process has the potential to release chemicals that are less desirable than the ones being removed from the air stream, Kerr says.

The research will investigate a variety of standalone and in-duct air cleaners using PCO technology, challenging them with several airborne contaminants to identify chemicals released.

ASHRAE Research Project 1457, By-Product Production from Photocatalytic Oxidation Associated with Indoor Air Cleaning Devices, was awarded to University of Wisconsin. The $124,889 project is expected to take 2 years to complete.

The project is one of 12 ASHRAE projects recently approved for funding, totaling $1.4 million. Others are:
  • Modeling Low Velocity Large Scale Fluctuating Flows in Ventilated Spaces at Transitional Reynolds Numbers, RP-1271, Purdue University, 2 years, $120,156, sponsored by TC 4.10, Indoor Environmental Modeling.
  • Particle Counter Specification for Use with Filter Performance Test Standard ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 52.2-1999, RP-1287, RTI International, 15 months, $101,853, TC 2.4, Particulates air Contaminants and Particulate Contaminant Removal Equipment. Modeling VOC Sorption of Building Materials and Its Impact on Indoor Air Quality - Phase II, RP-1321, Tsinghua University, 2 years, $109,035, TC 4.10.
  • Stability and Accuracy of VAV Box Control at Low Flows, RP-1353, Drexel University, 18 months, $99,153, TC 1.4, Control Theory and Applications.
  • Method of Test to Evaluate Field Performance of Commercial Kitchen Ventilation Systems, RP-1376, University of Minnesota, 1 year, $94,048, TC 5.10, Kitchen Ventilation.
  • Recommendations Based on Field Testing and Analysis of High-Altitude Installations of Gas-Fired Boilers and Water Heaters, RP-1388, Gas Consultants, 1 year, $48,454, TC 6.10, Fuels and Combustion.
  • Study of Carbon Dioxide Condensation in Chevron Angle Plate Geometry Exchanger, RP-1394, Washington State University, 2 years, $89,315, TC 8.5, Liquid-to-Refrigerant Heat Exchangers.
  • Comparison of Vertical Display Cases, RP-1402, University of Missouri, 2 years, $104,746, TC 10.7, Commercial Food and Beverage Cooling Display and Storage.
  • Experimental Evaluation of Two-Phase Pressure Drops and Flow Patterns in U-Bends for R-134a, R-410a and Ammonia, RP-1444, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, 3 years, $179,000, TC 1.3, Heat Transfer and Fluid Flow.
  • Experimental Validation of Modeling Tools for Mixed Gas Refrigeration Cycles, RP-1472, University of Wisconsin, 1 year, $50,000, TC 10.4, Ultra-Low Temperature Systems and Cryogenics.
  • Development of Typical-Year Weather Files from the ISH Database of Historical Weather Data from 2,500 International Locations, RP-1477, White Box Technologies, 1 year, $62,551, TC 4.2. Climatic Information.
This information was provided by ASHRAE, an international organization of some 50,000 persons. ASHRAE fulfills its mission of advancing heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration to serve humanity and promote a sustainable world through research, standards writing, publishing, and continuing education. For more information, visit (

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