Teague, a leading design and innovation company, today unveils its AirShield concept—the world’s first germ isolation system that uses controlled airflow to restrict the spread of a virus within an aircraft cabin.
Existing research suggests there are two known transmission processes for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19: either as an airborne particulate or from viral particles which have settled on surfaces. In a confined space, such as an aircraft cabin, this poses an increased risk to passenger safety.
While airlines already operate stringent sanitation and cleaning processes before boarding, recent communications from the CDC suggest that surface transmission is not the main way that the coronavirus spreads. Instead, it is spread primarily through close contact from person-to-person (through respiratory droplets that land in each other’s mouths). Although airlines are mandating the use of face masks, the use of these on-board is limited to passenger adherence, which will fluctuate due to physical discomfort and the need to eat and drink. Therefore, the ability to control sanitization diminishes rapidly when the cabin is populated.
Provisioned by the airline rather than relying on the passenger, AirShield provides an invisible, effective, and consistent additional line of defense against viral transmission in the cabin.
AirShield is a single 3D-printed component that fits directly onto the Passenger Service Unit (PSU) positioned above every passenger in the cabin. By utilizing the airflow from the existing overhead air-gaspers, AirShield transforms freshly purified air into engineered ‘air-blades’ capable of controlling the spread of droplets much more effectively – offering passengers and crew improved protection and peace of mind. As a result, when a passenger breathes, coughs, or sneezes, the water vapor droplets are contained within that passenger’s space and immediately re-directed downwards and out of the cabin to the HEPA filtration units, before they have the opportunity to enter the personal space of a neighboring passenger.
The curved shape of the blades are designed to maximize the efficiency of the existing system and create protection between neighboring passengers as well as row-to-row. Additionally, the air blade is positioned around, versus on, the passenger so as not to cause discomfort or irritation.
Aircraft are still one of the safest modes of transport, with HEPA air filters ensuring the quality and sanitation levels of recycled air remain incredibly high. However, airflow on-board an aircraft is largely vertical, with air dispersed at the top of the cabin and along the side walls. The air is then pulled out of the cabin through ducts in the floor, filtered and refreshed every few minutes. This process can extend the trajectory of an infectious water vapor droplet past multiple passengers before it is decontaminated – potentially resulting in one person infecting several others.
To better understand how germs travel in the aircraft cabin, Teague initiated a series of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations to evaluate various aspects of particulate movement in the cabin environment. The initial results demonstrate the potential to re-direct the spread of exhaled respiratory particles from passengers.
“In an aircraft environment, it is airflow and not the distance that plays the most significant role in the spread of a virus. By engineering the cabin airflow to manage each individual’s exhalations, passengers can have far greater peace of mind when seated nearby,” said Anthony Harcup, Senior Director of Airline Experience at Teague, who co-invented AirShield. “For many airlines, it is simply not commercially viable to reconfigure entire cabins to adhere to social distancing measures – especially in economy class where passenger density is at its highest. A reconfigured interior would also not guarantee passengers the same level of protection from infectious droplets traveling through the cabin when compared to AirShield.”
Coronavirus and the use of masks will go away long-term; however, the world’s expectations for elevated hygiene post-pandemic will remain. The enhanced interpersonal protection that Air-shield is set to deliver will be a valuable tool for the industry in the quest for a cleaner, safer cabin.
The AirShield concept is now entering its engineering development phase in anticipation of rapid deployment to help restore confidence in air travel during a time of increasing uncertainty.
Teague is a design and innovation company. We combine technology expertise with a deep understanding of human behavior to design what’s next for companies in automotive, aviation, retail and e-commerce, smart cities, travel and hospitality, telecommunications, and technology. A leader in product, service, and experience design at the intersection of the physical and digital, Teague partners with bold brands that are reinventing the world such as Amazon, Boeing, Google, Starbucks, and Toyota to discover new opportunities and solve complex problems to shape the future.