At the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics in Germany, scientists have been working on improving the air we breathe when flying in airplanes. High flying airplanes are designed to reduce the internal air humidity to prevent moisture from sticking to the surfaces. This is because of the low pressure and cold temperature outside and the pressure regulation inside. The result are dry mucous membranes and flyer discomfort. A new vortex ring generator by the research team may be just the thing to increase the humidity for the flyers without raising the overall humidity inside the fuselage.
The generator spins up high humidity air and shoots it out toward a person’s chest, creating a volume about the size of the head. The vortex then moves up toward the mouth and nose because of the warmth of the chest. Due to the laws of fluid dynamics, this vortex remains a lot more localized and stationary than simply blowing humid air out a vent. Since the amount of humidity expelled by the generator is pretty small compared to the size of the cabin, the windows should remain clear and surfaces dry.
To test the system, a dummy was recruited as a text subject whose nose has sensors that analyze incoming air. Instead of water vapor, more easily seen smoke was used. This allowed the team to tune their device to better target the dummy and prove that the concept is not just a bunch of humid air. Hopefully upcoming steps will involve working with airplane manufacturers to begin thinking of testing and later integrating the technology into the planes we fly.