EPA announces Cleaner Indoor Air During Wildfires Challenge winners in Idaho, Oregon, Washington
SEATTLE (October 26, 2021) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the winners of the Cleaner Indoor Air During Wildfires Challenge. Challenge winners receive prizes of up to $10,000 for their proposed innovative technologies that could be used in homes to clean indoor air during wildfire smoke events. Three of the five winning projects selected nationwide are here in the Pacific Northwest, where longer and more intense wildfire seasons frequently cause unhealthy and even hazardous air quality in many communities.
“The increasing intensity of wildfires is a major public health challenge,” said Dr. Wayne Cascio, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “The innovative ideas proposed by the challenge winners can further our efforts to protect public health and keep indoor air as clean as possible during wildfires and other high air pollution events.”
Wildfires release many pollutants that worsen air quality in areas downwind. Particle pollution, specifically fine particulate matter (PM2.5 or particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers), is a significant component of wildfire smoke and a known health risk for people exposed to high amounts or prolonged concentrations. Wildfire smoke exposure is particularly hazardous for people with pre-existing health conditions, such as asthma or cardiovascular disease. Smoke can spread many miles during wildfires, impacting communities near and far. Recommended responses to reduce smoke exposures during wildfires include staying indoors with doors and windows closed, when possible.
Current indoor air cleaning technologies have multiple limitations that prevent their widespread use, including the cost of purchase, operation, and maintenance, as well as dependence on electrical power, which can be disrupted by wildfires or rolling blackouts. The challenge winners developed detailed written proposals for affordable approaches to keep indoor air as clean as possible during periods when outdoor PM2.5 concentrations are elevated, such as during wildfire smoke events. Winners from this first phase of the challenge will be invited to submit prototypes of their technologies for evaluation in the next challenge phase.
Challenge Winners in EPA’s Region 10:
- Low-Cost Household Air Purifier Requiring No Consumables – An air purifier that uses a method called cyclonic separation to remove smoke particles from the air, and this process would be enhanced by adding a fine mist of water to the air stream. Proposed by Charles Matlack and Liam Bradshaw, of Seattle, Wash.
- The Cocoon: An Accessible Low-Cost Air Cleaner for Safer Spaces During Wildfires – An air cleaner that uses a large, tube-shaped, washable fabric filter combined with a box fan to create a low-cost device. Proposed by Elliot Gall, Brett Stinson, Matthew Moore, and Warren Gunn, Portland State University, Mechanical and Materials Engineering, of Portland, Ore.
- Resonant Ultrasonic Scrubber for Indoor Air Filtration – An air cleaner that uses the motion created by sound waves (ultrasonic agitation) to aerosolize water and mix with smoky air to capture particles in the air. Proposed by Eric Nutsch, BOTE Innovations LLC, of Burley, Idaho.
Read the full descriptions of winning and honorable mention proposals on the challenge website: https://www.epa.gov/air-research/winners-cleaner-indoor-air-during-wildfires-challenge.
Learn more about EPA’s wildfire research: https://www.epa.gov/air-research/wildland-fire-research-protect-health-and-environment