Innovation in air purification

Published on 2023-05-29

Startup Story

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In an interview, Chiara Verderese, BD and Technical Support at ISCLEANAIR, shared with us details about their air purification technology. Learn how their filterless APA solution revolutionizes air quality, creating healthier environments around the world.


It is of utmost importance for us to tackle a significant global issue: air pollution and its impact on climate change. Each year, air pollution causes over 8 million premature deaths worldwide, while also resulting in reduced productivity in industries and workplaces costing hundreds of billions per year in lost productivity and gross domestic product growth. 

Furthermore, since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been an increased emphasis on indoor air quality. This has led to a rise in energy consumption in buildings, accounting for up to 60% of running costs in non-residential structures. At ISCLEANAIR, we strongly believe in air purification as a novel social service. We work passionately and enthusiastically to provide a cleaner world for all. 

Our society primary challenge lies in the reduction of harmful pollutants and microorganisms. We at ISCLEANAIR offer innovative solutions, projects, and products designed to purify ambient air, reduce CO2 and promote energy savings across various spheres of life and work. In addition, we can provide comprehensive monitoring capabilities, technical assistance services, employing a range of sales models, including direct sales and complementary selling propositions through our distributors and commercial partners.

The commercial and scaling up journey of ISCLEANAIR began in early 2015, when it was founded after years of research, development, and testing within the company named ISTECH - the mother company - created to focus on testing and validation phases of our APA(Air Pollution Abatement) technology. In April 2017, ISCLEANAIR secured its initial funding round, enabling the rollout of our initiatives and further development and deployment of our technology to combat air pollution in industrial and outdoor environments.

The APA Technology: A Filterless Chemical-Free Approach to Air Purification

ISCLEANAIR's APA technology revolutionises air purification by utilizing a simple water-based and mechanical process, completely free of filters and chemicals. This innovative approach simultaneously reduces particulate matter from nanoparticles size up to larger sizes, by up to 99%, as well as removes the widest range of chemical and gas pollutants, playing a crucial role in combating climate change and safeguarding human health. Recent tests have even certified the ability to remove up to 20% CO2 directly form the air. 

The technology operates as follows: ambient air is captured within a specialized chamber and introduced into a wet scrubber, which initiates the first stage of pollution abatement by generating a gas-fluid mixture with water. This mixture is then directed through a shower scrubber, providing a second level of abatement as pollutants precipitate into water. The third and final stage involves wet deposition and absorption, employing a patented abatement system called "depositions stack." This system enables a remarkable overall abatement efficacy exceeding 90%. 

Upon completion of the washing process, the purified air is reintroduced into the surrounding environment, thereby maximizing efficacy. Notably, APA is capable of abating also ultra-fine nanoparticles acting and eliminating also viruses and bacteria. The flexibility of our technology allows also to add an optional electromagnetic field, based on UVX technology, which can be used in certain applications such as to enhance removal of specific gaseous pollutants, without formation of secondary pollutants (e.g. Ozone) or add an extra layer of virus and bacteria sanification. 

APA technology generates a simple liquid similar to rainwater. Extensive chemical analysis and legally certified tests confirm that this liquid can be disposed of by draining it into standard urban sewage or through existing wastewater management system present at industrial sites.

As a result, the APA system aligns perfectly with the principles of the circular economy and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) paradigms. Moreover, its unique characteristics and versatility enable seamless integration with various infrastructure designs of different shapes and sizes (e.g. lampposts, bus stops, urban furniture or even within tick walls).

Different solutions for outdoor and indoor

Our primary focus lies in the abatement process rather than monitoring alone. While we do have partners for monitoring services, our key emphasis is on providing comprehensive solutions that address the growing demand for pollution abatement/reduction in both indoor and outdoor environments, thereby creating new market needs driven by ever stringent Air Quality legislations. 

Our business model combines services and solutions to generate awareness of this new social service, benefiting both people and the environment. Within our portfolio, we offer a range of solutions and can provide various services alongside our devices. For instance, in the context of buildings and indoor environments, we have developed an intelligent solution called APA HVAC. It is an effective air pollution abatement system coupled with existing air treatment units, offering significant benefits such as improved building air cleanliness, cost savings in HVAC filters change and maintenance and, very important reduce HVAC energy consumption with huge economic benefit and CO2 reduction. 

Furthermore, for individual rooms and dedicated indoor spaces, we offer our APA Interiors solution range, which encompasses a combination of specialized devices in different sizes and shapes. One notable example is our APA Flower Pot, a functional flower pot that can be deployed in office or various types of rooms, including kitchens, as part of smart home projects and much more.

When it comes to outdoor areas and large indoor spaces, such as underground parking lots, urban squares, airports, train stations, and even long street canyons for Smart Cities projects, we have developed the APA Panel/Totem. This powerful system delivers highly effective air pollution abatement in large indoor spaces and urban centres, ensuring cleaner and healthier environments for citizens.

What makes APA different from the competitors

We have numerous differentiating features that set our APA technology apart. Currently, the air purification market is dominated by HEPA filter-based air purifiers, which to maintain high efficiency and avoid contamination of treated air, are quite expensive due to the need for frequent filter replacements, special waste treatment, and high maintenance costs. Additionally, competitors' airflow tends to be weak and limited in coverage, unlike our APA technology, which operates with a distributed approach. Being filterless and solely water-based, APA is more competitive as it eliminates the need for expensive pollution-abating filters and the associated expenses of treatment and replacement.

Essentially, our technology provides a cost-effective solution in the air purification market. Filter-based systems tend to become less efficient over time (50% less after only 1,000 hours or 42 days) as the filters get obstructed, which can also increase the diffusion of viruses, bacteria, and diseases. Conversely, our APA technology has undergone rigorous scientific trials on a large scale, showcasing its superior performance, constant rate of abatement, targeted pollutant removal, extremely low running costs and other unique selling propositions when compared to competitors and other brands. 

Furthermore, APA offers multiple benefits within a single technology. It not only purifies the environment but also effectively abates viruses and bacteria, earning certification as a prevention and protection equipment by the Italian Ministry of Health. Moreover, when integrated with HVAC systems, APA can achieve energy savings of up to 25% compared to filter-based solutions, and recently its capabilities have been verified also for CO2 removal directly from air

Hence, our aim is to provide a more affordable and highly effective solution that is accessible to everyone.

APA’s global expansion and successful collaborations

Our focus is highly international. One of our current challenges is expanding our APA business worldwide, as our goal is to make our technology widespread and available to everyone, regardless of their location, since poor air quality does not have boundaries.

We primarily target various sectors, including commercial and residential buildings, both within Europe and beyond, as well as urban spaces, industrial sites, and workplaces. We have conducted numerous successful projects and tests in different locations, such as Paris and Asia, to assess the reduction of emissions from industrial sites. 

Recently, we successfully completed a project co-funded by EIT Manufacturing, industrialising and deploying our APA Panel devices in an industrial plant in Spain. The results exceeded scientists from CEA (France) expectations, achieving significant abatement percentages for pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) within just a few weeks from installation. 

Furthermore, we actively engage in special projects involving cross-innovation and open innovation, collaborating with international large corporates. As a technology-driven company, our focus extends beyond producing and offering individual products/units. We aim to provide our technology as a whole to global players, that can scale and apply it quickly and where is most needed, emphasizing that it is entirely Made in Italy. 

Pure Project: a successful case study

The project is called "Pure-Air Purification Units for Manufacturing Environment" It's important to highlight the achievements of this project because it sets us apart in the air purification market. The purpose of the project was to industrialise the APA Panel model and demonstrate APA technology ability to effectively reduce a wide range of air pollutants and contaminants present in manufacturing environments, to ultimately improving the health and well-being of workers.

With our filterless APA technology, we successfully deployed 5 APA panel units in the Fagor industrial plant in Spain, achieving full industrialization at TRL-9 (Technology Readiness Level) in collaboration with our partner, Comau, from the Stellantis group. We demonstrated the effectiveness of our innovative technology in abating indoor air pollutants, in fact through rigorous monitoring conducted by independent third parties (CEA), we obtained concrete results within a few weeks of ambient cleaning activities. Specifically, during painting operations and other manufacturing processes (milling), we achieved over 50% abatement of particulate matter (PM), over 60% abatement of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and even higher (64%) levels of reduction of formaldehyde and styrene.

The project has garnered recognition from EIT Manufacturing as a successful example of an initiative funded in 2021 and was shortlisted for the EIT Award Competition in the category Innovation, in 2022. It is considered a replicable model with the potential to disrupt and innovate the green tech sector on a larger scale. Our projects and pilots are designed to be replicable and applicable to various types of spaces, allowing us to make a significant impact across different industries.

Main challenges and future goals

We are currently facing three main challenges in our journey. The first challenge is industrialization scale-up, as we aim to rapidly scale up our solution. With our versatile intellectual property transfer models, we strive to share our knowledge in air pollution abatement and create value globally, while also generating new job opportunities. By selling and transferring our technology IP, we can ensure that it is produced and implemented worldwide, while always maintaining its "Made in Italy" essence. 

The second challenge lies in our detection phase. As a certified medical device, our technology has the capability to capture viruses and bacteria in our water-based system. Our goal is to further develop this process, providing low-cost and real-time detection of biological risks, including the spread of viruses and the risk of infection. This goes beyond just COVID-19 and encompasses various viruses and bacteria present in different environments. We have also conducted tests on legionella, for instance. Moreover, recent proof of concept application from CEA, France of in-water pollution detection has demonstrated that APA can also be used for low-cost detection of pollutants difficult and too expensive to detect with standard air monitoring systems.  

The third challenge revolves around eco-friendly and lightweight materials. To enhance sustainability and adhere to circular economy principles, we are exploring innovative materials that not only will reduce the weight of our APA systems and devices but also expand our low environmental impact. We strive to remain compliant with circular economy practices and uphold ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) principles. 

In conclusion, our ultimate challenge is to scale up our technology in diverse and global markets, particularly in verticals such as MedTech, the medical sector, Energy efficiency and last but not least Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS). 

About the author

Chiara Verderese

BD and Technical Support of ISCLEANAIR