The Crazy Connection Between Air Purifiers And Atom Bombs

So you think you know air purifiers.

Just you wait.

This is the thing: a lot of the products in our lives that we take for granted actually have fascinating histories. So let’s go on the journey that is air purification.

The Atom Bomb And HEPA

So, in case you don’t know, HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) is a standard used to measure the effectiveness of air filtration. Most (good) air purifiers aim to live up to the HEPA standard because it is one of the biggest signs that they’re actually doing the work of purifying air.

Now, HEPA didn’t start with, like, air purifier companies like us. Nope.

It started with a little thing called the Manhattan Project.

In case you haven’t heard of it, the Manhattan Project was a research project undertaken by thousands of scientists to develop the first atomic bomb during World War II.

As one might expect, the scientists working on this project were quite concerned about the radioactive materials they were dealing with, and thus needed a rigorous method to filter out the incredibly small particles which were getting contaminated by nuclear radioactive sources.

So the Army Chemical Corps commissioned their official Smart Dude, named Irving Langmuir, a Nobel Laureate who was on the Corps, to determine what would be required to filter out these super duper small particles.

Langmuir recommended creating filters that would filter out particles that were 0.3 microns in size or larger. To give you a sense of how small that is, a human hair is 75 microns. A blood cell is 5 microns across. 0.3 microns, then, is about the size of a typical bacteria.

That’s really small, in case I haven’t made that clear.

But what Nobel Laureates want, they generally get. So the scientists tasked with developing this filter focused on making this idea come to be. They started with the most effective air filters being used at the time: gas masks. Using much of the same materials that protected soldiers from gas attacks, they developed a machine that would filter even smaller particles. Eventually, they got it to the point where the filter could remove 99.97% of particles that were .3 microns.

And thus was developed the best air filter ever created up to that point, and one of the first truly effective air purifiers in human history.

Declassification Time

During the war, all of the stuff learned to create the atomic bomb was kept under wraps, and thus this incredibly effective air purifier technology was kept hidden from the public.

But after the end of World War II, the technology and, just as importantly, the standard were declassified.

In the 1950s, the filter and the standard were commercialized and given the name of HEPA.

Since then, HEPA has stood the test of time as one of the ways to determine just how effective an air purifier is at removing small pollutants from the air.

Which, I can’t help but share, is exactly why aeris makes all our air purifiers at the level of HEPA (or higher).

Anyway! That’s the story of air purifiers and the atomic bomb.

See, now you know something about air purifiers.

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