A University of Buffalo group has developed a system to defeat pathogenic spores on a large scale. The device, called the BioBlower destroys spores via heat and pressure oscillations. The research was funded largely by the Department of Defense and the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR).
In tests funded by the Department of Defense and conducted last fall, the UB team has shown it can eradicate greater than 99.9999 percent of the spores of an anthrax surrogate in an airstream, according to the researchers.
“That’s better than any conventional technology on the market.” said James F. Garvey, Ph.D., UB professor of chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences and co-founder and chief technical officer of Buffalo BioBlower Technologies with John Lordi, Ph.D., chief executive officer. Lordi is a research professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
“We input one million live, active spores of a thermally resistant bacterium into the BioBlower and only one live spore comes out,” said Garvey.
Through compressive heating and pressure oscillations that break up and kill pathogens, the dual-use technology called BioBlower can be expected to rapidly and continuously eradicate even the smallest of airborne biological pathogens, such as bacteria, spores, viruses, influenza including bird flu, pollen and mold.
That contrasts with the current conventional technology, HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) paper filters, which trap large airborne spores and need to be changed frequently, stored carefully and subsequently destroyed.
“With HEPA filters, the spores are still alive, once they’re collected, waiting to infect somebody,” Garvey said. “We kill them at the source.”
“The Centers for Disease Control says going to the hospital is the fourth biggest killer in this country,” Garvey noted, because of the high incidence of hospital-acquired infections, a problem that he said is contributing rapidly to spiraling health-care costs.
In addition, the device could be made compact enough to turn an ordinary hospital room into an instant isolation unit, Garvey said, or as large as necessary to install in a building’s HVAC unit to provide purified air throughout an entire facility.