[Whitepaper] Trane Tests Bipolar Ionization and Finds it Ineffective

April 20, 2021

In an attempt to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, facilities managers and building owners across industries have been rushing to find methods to create cleaner, safer environments that will allow them to create safe environments for occupants and keep doors open. In this rush, many have quickly implemented environment and air treatment systems that are not yet verified as effective pathogen control methods.

A recent whitepaper published by Trane Technologies, titled “A Taxonomy of Air-Cleaning Technologies Featuring Bipolar Ionization,” outlines the company’s recent study on a needlepoint bipolar ionization product, which Trane had tested by an independent laboratory in the fall of 2020.

The whitepaper clearly shows how one recently popular air treatment method – needlepoint bipolar ionization – may not deliver on the claims that product manufacturers have made.

Key takeaways from Trane Technology’s whitepaper include:

Negligible Removal of Airborne Contaminants

Considering needlepoint bipolar ionization is marketed and implemented as an air treatment technology, the results of Trane’s study are disappointing. While NBPI did remove a portion of the airborne virus injected into the test environment, removal took a full 60 minutes and was considerably less effective than many other treatments available on the market today. Even HEPA filters, a relatively simple method of pathogen control, are capable of delivering greater removal, as much as 99.99% in just 10 minutes.

No Effect on VOCs

Bipolar ionization has long been touted as a solution for volatile organic compound (VOC) removal. This study completed by Trane showed no reduction whatsoever of formaldehyde compared to natural formaldehyde decay over time. Again, this test was conducted over 60 minutes of time, and the same results were obtained with toluene, another VOC.

No Effect on Viral Particles on Surfaces
Research has shown that reducing contamination in the air also reduces bacteria and fungus on surfaces. The study completed by Trane showed that the introduction of an NBPI unit had no effect on the number of viral particles on surfaces. As you can see from the surface disinfection graph, when compared to natural decay, NBPI delivered no reduction in viral particles on surfaces. This calls into question the ability of the treatment method as a whole.

As the Trane whitepaper stated, “the inefficacy of NBPI for MS2 on surfaces and for formaldehyde in the air gives rise to the hypothesis that ions produced by this device may not have the strength to extract hydrogen atoms from carbon chains.”

Trane Tested NBPI At Significantly Lower Air Flow Than The Unit Is Rated For

What is perhaps most concerning about these results is the airflow at which needlepoint bipolar ionization was tested.

  • The unit Trane tested was rated by the manufacturer for airflow rates of 6,000 cfm.
  • Trane tested the unit at just 101 cfm for most tests.

With less airflow, the unit should be even more effective, calling into question NBPI’s efficacy in a real-world setting.
As a whole, this whitepaper raises questions about many of the claims behind NBPI. Trane’s study showed that needlepoint bipolar ionization, when tested in a controlled environment and at a low airflow rate, produced no effect on VOCs, no effect on viral particles on surfaces, and negligible effect on airborne contaminants.

Despite these results, many schools, office buildings, and more have already implemented NBPI in an attempt to address the risk of coronavirus contamination. This highlights the need not only for more research on these emerging technologies but also for property managers’ careful consideration before implementation. For those interested in learning more about effective airborne pathogen control, our team is available to review systems your team is considering and lend assistance as you work to implement a safe, effective solution.

This whitepaper from Trane confirms that at this time, NBPI is not a proven pathogen elimination method. Based on the available information provided by this study, NBPI can not safely or effectively provide air treatment for occupied spaces.

If you have questions about this whitepaper, about effective airborne pathogen control, or would like to know more about pathogen control technologies that do have clinical backing, consider contacting us . We’d be happy to answer any questions you may have, and provide a range of peer-reviewed studies and clinical research validating the efficacy of ceiling-mounted UV-C systems.

This blog is published in an attempt to provide a helpful summary and interpretation of the study completed by Trane Technologies. UV Angel has no relationship to Trane Technologies, bipolar ionization, or this study. This study is not peer-reviewed and we are not commenting on Trane Technologies’ scientific method or validity.