The sky. The air. The future. These are the concerns of Bingbing Shi, a senior air filtration specialist at Blueair.
Sat in the company’s building overlooking one of Stockholm’s largest parks, Shi talks about her mission. It’s an undertaking that affects everyone, all of the time: the purification of the air we breathe. “I believe it’s worthwhile,” she says without a blink, “to invest all my energy in this field because it can help people across the world.”
Shi committed to this calling having grown up in a mid-sized city in central China. “When I was a child, the air was quite good,” she explains, “but over time it became more and more polluted. By providing people with the technology to make their air cleaner, I feel I can make a real difference.”
After starting her academic study on aerosol science and indoor quality in China, Shi continued her studies in Sweden. She holds a doctorate in Building Services Engineering from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, where she was part of a research group. “In China I collected many types of particle and searched for the sources of pollution,” recounts Shi, “trying to find out what emits the most airborne particles in the indoor environment. In Sweden, I have continued my interests on air filtration and air pollutants transmission and control in buildings.”
Why is it important to capture pollutants?
“If indoor air is polluted, morbidity and mortality of repository diseases can rise. And, more importantly when it comes to China, over the past 30 years air pollutants have caused a big increase in lung cancer.”
“In the city centre for instance,” Shi continues, “you have lots of emissions from traffic. So buildings and automobiles need both a ventilation system to curb pollution from outdoor air, and also an air purifier to bring pollution levels down to a safe level.”
What about indoor sources of pollution?
“There are indoor sources of pollution such as smoking and cooking, but also some cheap furniture, which releases dangerous gases from paint and glue.” The worst risk comes from the very smallest particles, often called ultra-fine particles or nanoparticles. “They can get into our respiratory tract,” says Shi, “and reach alveolus cells, enter our blood circulation and even reach our brains.”
According to Shi, small particles aren’t the only problem. “There are also larger particles that present a danger, such as pollen.”
Later, as we inspect the extensive series of air purifiers in the Blueair showroom, Shi tells me about one of her personal interests in the future: the way influenza spreads indoors, how it is caught, and how people can be kept safe from it in a virus-filled environment such as a hospital. Already today you can chose an air purifier from Blueair that eliminates colds and viruses from the air, but Bingbing is researching even finer methods.
“When you cough,” she explains, “many very small liquid droplets spread into the air. The challenge for our products is to capture them – and thus the virus – before they evaporate. And I actually think that it could be figured out.”