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As COVID turns indoors toxic, purification startup sells a breath of fresh air

Aura Air says its devices, released during the pandemic, can disinfect 99.9% of viruses and bacteria

A bus in the UK, protected with the Aura Air filters (Courtesy)
A bus in the UK, protected with the Aura Air filters (Courtesy)

Years before the coronavirus pandemic forced the world to hide behind a mask, Aviad Shnaiderman was worried about the quality of air being breathed indoors.

Having previously worked for his father’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning company, Shnaiderman understood that standard ventilation or air conditioning wasn’t enough to prevent indoor air from being polluted with gases, aerosols or viruses.

In 2017, with past epidemics like SARS and MERS on his mind, Shnaiderman and his brother Eldar co-founded Aura Air in Tel Aviv, aiming to bring a product to market that would purify and disinfect indoor air.

“Everyone knows what they eat, what they drink, how to work out, but they are not understanding what they breathe,” Shnaiderman said recently.

Sheba Medical Center team at the Coronavirus isolation ward, in Ramat Gan, July 20, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

In the summer of 2020, with COVID-19 already raging, the company launched its technology, a system that monitors air quality in real-time, while purifying, cleaning and disinfecting the air.

The company claims its system, which includes a carbon filter, copper-infused fabric, a Sterionizer bipolar ionizer and UVc LED, manages to captures 99.9% of airborne particles, including allergens as small as 0.3 microns.

An experiment sponsored by the company and carried out at Sheba Medical Center found that each individual component of the purifier reduced the presence of a coronavirus similar in size to SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by at least 99.9%, except for one filter, which caught 99.7% of the virus.

Aviad Shnaiderman, left, and his brother Eldar, co-founders of Aura Air (Courtesy)

Shnaiderman said it’s become obvious that air filtration is necessary and, whereas before the coronavirus pandemic he would have to explain to people why the system was beneficial, now, he said, everyone understands.

He fully expects the company to face competition from other similar products in the future.

“It’s absolutely affecting the market,” he said. “Everyone understands that the HVAC systems are not really a solution and we must have another device/feature that will be able to disinfect, purify the air and treat those particles, gases and aerosols in the air.”

The $500 Aura Air system is around 15 inches (38 centimeters) tall, 15 inches wide, and about six inches thick and can monitor CO₂, smoke, temperature and humidity. There is also a mini version of the technology packed into a portable version standing less than five inches tall and weighing less than a pound that doesn’t need installation, though it has fewer detection capabilities, for $150.

Aura Air, which must go on a wall, can be installed and maintained by the user while the mini can stand upright on a surface. Using the Aura Air app, the user can personalize their system based on their preferences and health necessities.

Thus far, Shnaiderman said, Aura Air has sold in over 50 countries around the world.

Any indoor setting, more or less, could host the Aura Air technology — offices, residential spaces, hotels, senior living homes, healthcare facilities and even buses.

The Aura Air devices (Courtesy)

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the system was recently installed on 400 tour buses that were repurposed to ferry essential healthcare workers to and from work. Aura Air is also in the midst of a project focusing on the railway system in Israel.

Testing for the installation of Aura Air on transportation is a multi-step process that involves adjustment based on how many people are getting on and off the vehicle. Over a few-week period the product is installed, air quality is measured, and then the company will show the client the difference in quality before and after installation.

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