As I type this, more than half of all adult Americans have received a COVID vaccine and life is, in a lot of ways, starting to look a bit like it did before the deadly virus first appeared. But, while millions of adults have been vaccinated, young kids still don’t have an approved vaccine, and there are lingering concerns about the long-term impact COVID may have on kids who get the virus, even if they don’t show symptoms now. Knowing that many states will require schools to open fully this fall, Ford has stepped up, providing schools with a simple, low-cost air filtration system aimed at minimizing the risk of the virus’ airborne spread.
Our current understanding of COVID-19 is that the virus spreads more readily via aerosol (products in the air) than fomites (particles on things), so cleaning the air is a more effective means of prevention than cleaning surfaces (which you should totally still do, though). Using supercomputer-powered CFD (computational fluid dynamics), Ford engineers found that “a low-cost box fan air cleaner can mitigate the risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19 in a classroom equipped with a single horizontal unit ventilator.”
Like all great ideas, looking at this thing is, well, I feel like I should have been able to come up with this. It’s truly simple, and (if the math is to be believed), truly effective. Check it out for yourself, along with some basic assembly instructions, below. They even re-use the box it ships in!
“We wanted to help underserved communities reduce the risk of airborne COVID-19 in poorly ventilated areas, and it’s great to not only develop something that can meet that goal, but has the data to back it up,” said Dr. Cynthia Flanigan, director of vehicle research and technology at Ford research and advanced engineering. “We engaged with technical leads from University of Minnesota … as well as Well Living Lab to make sure our research was rock-solid.”
Flanigan and her team recently published a scientific article titled, “Airborne Transmission of COVID-19 and Mitigation Using Box Fan Air Cleaners in a Poorly Ventilated Classroom,” in the prominent scientific journal Physics of Fluids. So, if the science is found to be not rock-solid, I’m sure we’ll hear about it soon enough.
In the meantime, Ford, along with fan manufacturer Lasko, are donating 20,000 of these easy-to-make kits to underserved communities. Featuring an open-source design, the kit can be used by others interested in making their own to help reduce COVID-19 in rooms and other enclosed spaces where transmission of the virus is an ongoing concern. Ford has also released a downloadable template for the cardboard frame that interested parties can use to assemble their own “Scrappy Filtration unit” (how great is that name?) incorporating their own box fan and filter.
What do you guys think? It’s not the glitzy follow-up to the revolutionary new, all electric Ford F-150 Lightning I was expecting, but that’s just me. I’ll probably end up building one of these just to check it out — what about you guys? Share your best “Nailed it!” pictures in the comments.