We know we've been making some pretty bold claims about Respira. We say that it’s going to make the air in your home cleaner and healthier, add beauty to your surroundings, and basically take care of itself.
Now, we didn’t just make up the scientific principles of biofiltration that make Respira work. They’re based on the research of Dr. Alan Darlington while he was at the University of Guelph.
Dr. Alan Darlington, Plant Wall Biofilters, and the Plant Microbiome
Dr. Darlington is the brains behind impressive projects such as the six-story living wall biofilter in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ottawa, seen below:
His research in biofiltration helped single out what it is that makes plants great air purifiers. Rather than any part of the plants themselves, it’s their microbiome, or the community of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, etc.) that naturally populate plants. Specifically, it is the microbiome of the rhizosphere, or root zone, that is geared to break down organic compounds to obtain carbon for the benefit of the plant.
Living wall biofilters are able to harness this microbial superpower by using hydroponic growing methods and circulating the air inside a building through the roots of the plants. They’ve been shown to effectively clean the air in large-scale projects like the one mentioned above at the University of Ottawa and a similar installation at the University of Guelph-Humber.
Respira works on the same principles as these giant living walls, but it is scaled down to fit in residential spaces. We didn’t want to just assume that it would be equally effective, though. So we reached out to Ryerson University to help us with some research.
Ryerson has a reputation for backing innovations that will improve the lives of many. They also have the necessary facilities, funding and people to carry out the tests we need. Graduate students will be paid to conduct the research while gaining valuable experience that will carry them forward in green careers.
We supplied Ryerson with the Respira unit to use in their testing and are available to provide any technical expertise about the system. The tests, however, will be completely conducted by Ryerson staff. We want to ensure they have the independence to be objective.
What Are We Testing For?
The tests will measure how many pollutants Respira removes from the air over a period of a time. They will use VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that are commonly found in indoor air and are known to be harmful to humans.
They’ll also find out how quickly the microorganisms adapt to the specific VOCs they are exposed to. This is an important aspect that will influence how quickly Respira owners will see an improvement in IAQ (indoor air quality) as well as how Respira will perform in the long run.
How Does the Test Work?
Researchers will place a Respira unit in a closed room, and then introduce a known quantity of volatile organic compounds into the air. They will test the air intermittently to see if the total VOCs are reduced, and also test the concentration of specific pollutants.
Over the course of testing, they will also take samples of the root zone microbes to identify the microorganisms living there. They’ll monitor how the microbial community evolves over time—specifically, if the organisms that are best suited to removing the particular pollutants increase. If that happens, the efficiency of the unit would actually improve over time.
Breathe Easy About the Future
We are so excited to see the results of these tests on Respira. We already know that plants are amazing air purifiers, but the information we get from Ryerson will show how we can leverage that ability to make your home cleaner, healthier and more comfortable.