“The claims seem suspicious on several counts, but they don’t provide enough information to decipher what they are really doing,” said Jose L. Jimenez, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
A phone call to Jerry McGuire, president of CleanAir EXP, the company behind the technology, was not returned. Church officials did not respond to requests for comment.
These systems, which would be installed in the ducts of the ventilation system, typically use a strong electric charge to strip electrons from atoms, turning them into charged ions. The ions then attach to particles in the air, adding electrical charge to the particles. The charged particles are then attracted to a surface with the opposite electrical charge. Once pulled there, they are stuck to the surface, removed from the air. “This technology is well-established for removing aerosols from an air stream,” said Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech.
Companies like CleanAir EXP base their claims on laboratory tests by outside firms but financed by the companies. A test of a CleanAir EXP device looked at a different type of virus in a test chamber about 900 cubic feet in volume — smaller than a box 10 feet on each side and tiny compared with the size of the church.
In a more realistic setting, it would take some time before the air recirculated through the ventilation system, and someone near an infected person could easily be exposed to the virus before the air had a chance to be recirculated and cleaned.
“The system could help reduce background levels of infectious virus in the air, but in a crowded situation such as a rally, it is most likely that any transmission that occurs is between people standing close to each other for prolonged periods,” Dr. Marr said.
William P. Bahnfleth, a professor of architectural engineering at Pennsylvania State University, who looked over the testing results, said, “Suffice it to say that, based on the evidence available, the scientific community is skeptical of performance claims for these devices.”