Cleaning the air with a soy protein air filter

Air pollution is getting worse, especially in large cities. While one can turn this pollution in tools for art, as this company does, using air purifiers is another effective method to clean the air. Air purifiers come in all shapes and sizes, from the large Smog Free Tower by Studio Roosegaarde, which purifies entire cities, to Molekule that cleans indoor air. However, many air purifiers are petroleum-based and chemically synthesised, using not eco-friendly materials, and cause secondary environmental pollution. Researchers from Washington State University have now developed an air filter using soy protein that can capture toxic chemicals.

Common air filters can capture small particles present in air pollution, such as soot and smoke, but they cannot capture gasses that are present in the pollution as well.

The new air filtering material uses natural, purified soy protein and bacterial cellulose, which is an organic compound produced by bacteria. These ingredients are cost effective, biodegradable, and used in many other applications, such as adhesives and plastic products.

Soy protein isolate contains many functional chemical groups on its structure, which have the potential to capture passing pollution at the molecular level. Using an acrylic acid treatment, the rigid soy protein could be disentangled, so that the groups can be more exposed to the pollutants. The resulting filter is able to remove nearly all the small particles as well as chemical pollutants.

In addition to the soy-based filters, the researchers have also developed gelatine- and cellulose-based air filters.

Diagrams via WSU News