simulation of viruses inside the air conditioner filter title

This year has been a challenge for all of us, and as mentioned in my blog in March about “What Engineers Can Do About COVID-19”, one of our customers is working hard to help people face this challenging time. This major HVAC system manufacturer is looking into bringing people back to work, making re-opening schools and restaurants possible again.

Although vaccines had received FDA approval, it will probably take several months for everyone to be vaccinated and get back to normal. And even then, traveling might still be challenging, especially to other countries, as we know from many other diseases that there will be pockets in the world where medical care is not established. Not to mention any mutated strain of the virus that might be immune to the vaccines or is more dangerous. Such circumstances will require a continued higher alert for some time. We still know too little about the virus to become careless.

But I think everyone can agree; we need to get the economy and public life going again. People need to be able to be safe at their workplace when shopping for clothes or groceries, and students need to participate in classes again. Our customer is now working with a cloud solution driven by Mendix to be able to automate HVAC and Ultra Violet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) simulations with Simcenter FLOEFD and optimize the positioning of HVAC ducts and UV lights intelligently with the help of Simcenter HEEDS, as other solutions to reduce the virus spread are also being developed.

You might be wondering why optimization of some lights and air vents is so important. Well, every room is different in size and layout. Therefore the same location of the vents and UV lights that might have the best performance in one room might be causing a bad airflow in another room or not allow for efficient irradiation with the sterilizing UV lights. Some rooms need special treatments after being used, such as in hospitals and doctor’s offices.

I think we all heard about good venting of the room is important. However, recirculating HVAC systems can be dangerous when the contaminants are only recirculated with the air over and over and potentially spread the virus throughout the indoor space. UVGI is used to kill off germs, viruses, and other harmful biological pathogens. Bringing UV lamps into HVAC systems helps kill off these pathogens and allows the air to be recirculated safely. But the UVGI efficiency is important as these pathogens have to be exposed for a certain duration with a certain irradiation dose. So simply putting some UV light somewhere is not having the right effect.

A UV lamp position optimization study in the hospital room.

Simcenter FLOEFD simulations can help optimize the UVGI efficiency in rooms by playing with the UV lamp’s position. Running tens of simulations varying the position with Simcenter HEEDS helps use a proprietary algorithm to optimize the position intelligently.
The video shows such a model setup with wide coordinate ranges for the 3 UV lamps at the 3 walls. Simcenter HEEDS then moving them around from simulation to simulation and is searching for the optimum location at these walls that reaches the highest UVGI efficiency.

This optimization can be run with multiple parameters. Mendix can be used quickly and easily to create a web or app interface with its low coding capability. The customers can define rough criteria such as room dimensions, number of occupants, and other parameters needed for the simulation. Simcenter automatically controls simulation tasks HEEDS and provides potential solutions back to the customer via their mobile device.

Such a service, provided by our customer to his clients, can help schools, companies, and other institutions to allow for a safe way to get back to normal operation faster and safer.

If you like to know more, feel free to contact us and if you are based in the US, feel free to contact my colleague Ted Lin and let us help you improve your products and services in this difficult time.

Disclaimer: I am the author at PLM ECOSYSTEM, focusing on developing digital-thread platforms with capabilities across CAD, CAM, CAE, PLM, ERP, and IT systems to manage the product data lifecycle and connect various industry networks. My opinions may be biased. Articles and thoughts on PLMES represent solely the author's views and not necessarily those of the company. Reviews and mentions do not imply endorsement or recommendations for purchase.

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