SCHOTT solutions no. 2/2014 > Environmental Technology

Engineers at Triplan Umwelttechnik have developed innovative photocatalytic ventilation systems that achieve a high level of efficiency. Special glass from SCHOTT is used as an ideal catalyst carrier. Photo: SCHOTT/ H.-J. Schulz

Washing the air

The Bavarian company Triplan Umwelttechnik is bringing fresh air to old buildings with an innovative idea: its engineers use UV light to banish moldy, musty smells from rooms. Special glass from SCHOTT Tubing helps remove the unwanted odors.

Sebastian Kirschner

Corked wine and musty rooms: both are unpleasant – and both often have the same cause. The wood preservatives used in impregnated pallets and the wooden beams of old houses over decades release gases that cause moldy smelling aerosols to appear, the same molecules that accumulate on corks and give a once delicious wine that feared corked taste. Help comes in the form of photocatalysis – a process that decomposes the undesirable gases using a catalyst and UV radiation. But existing solutions have their drawbacks: ”The present technology is neither very efficient nor particularly sustainable,” explains Andreas Beck, Managing Director of Triplan Umwelttechnik.

But now, Beck and his team of engineers have developed the TRIPLAN LightClean® ventilation solution. It uses glass instead of paper as the carrier for the catalyst. The device, a simple, stainless steel column with a built-in ventilator, first sucks up the polluted air in the room. ”The contaminant molecules accumulate inside TRIPLAN LightClean® on a panel consisting of small glass tubes measuring about six inches in length,” says Beck. The individual glass tubes are coated with a semiconductor material using a specially developed process. When stimulated by UV light, cold combustion converts the contaminants into carbon dioxide and water. TRIPLAN LightClean® then releases the cleansed air back into the room.
DURAN® Röhren
DURAN® tubes are an ideal substrate for the catalytic semiconductor material. In addition, they are also very durable. Photo: SCHOTT/ H.-J. Schulz
To achieve this innovation, the Harburg-based company employs DURAN® borosilicate glass tubing from SCHOTT. This special purpose glass offers key advantages that make it an ideal catalyst carrier: ”It has a much higher level of efficiency than any other material,” says Beck. ”Because of the high transparency of the DURAN® glass tubing, the UV light can penetrate deep into the reactor and reaches a much larger activation surface using the same amount of energy,” explains Dietmar Katlun, Area Sales Manager at SCHOTT Technical Tubing. This also makes TRIPLAN LightClean® highly sustainable: ”Unlike conventional filters, the coated glass tubing can be used endlessly since it is not corroded by oxidation,” says Beck. This is because this special glass is chemically highly resistant and can withstand major temperature changes.
TRIPLAN LightClean®
Andreas Beck (right), Managing Director at Triplan, is already thinking of new uses for the innovative ventilation system. Photo: SCHOTT/ H.-J. Schulz
The idea for the convenient air-cleaning system for old buildings came about more by chance than by design. ”We originally wanted to develop a way to clean toxic exhaust air in laboratories,” explains Beck. Photocatalysis turned out to be too weak for high concentrations of toxic contaminants. ”But we discovered that it worked exceptionally well with lower concentrations like those that are common in prefabricated houses and old buildings,” says Beck. The system is not only effective against so-called chloranisoles that cause corked wine, but also against formaldehyde (often used to glue together particle board and laminate) and ozone (produced by old printers). All of this would not have been possible without the help of SCHOTT, as Beck states: ”Mr. Katlun and his colleagues did not just supply a product; they also supported us with their technical expertise.” TRIPLAN LightClean® has so far only been tested in trial runs. In 2015, as Triplan celebrates its 25th anniversary, this is going to change. The first 60 devices are to be used in prefabricated houses that are being refurbished and in French wine cellars. ”French winemakers and the restoration industry have already recognized the potential of TRIPLAN LightClean®,” says Beck. But Beck also sees a future for his air-cleaning technology in other areas besides musty old buildings and corked wine: ”Fresh, clean air would also be very beneficial to doctors’ offices and shoe stores.”
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