Corked wine and musty rooms: both are unpleasant – and both often have the same cause. The wood preservatives used in impregnated pallets and the wooden beams of old houses over decades release gases that cause moldy smelling aerosols to appear, the same molecules that accumulate on corks and give a once delicious wine that feared corked taste. Help comes in the form of photocatalysis – a process that decomposes the undesirable gases using a catalyst and UV radiation. But existing solutions have their drawbacks: ”The present technology is neither very efficient nor particularly sustainable,” explains Andreas Beck, Managing Director of Triplan Umwelttechnik.
But now, Beck and his team of engineers have developed the TRIPLAN LightClean® ventilation solution. It uses glass instead of paper as the carrier for the catalyst. The device, a simple, stainless steel column with a built-in ventilator, first sucks up the polluted air in the room. ”The contaminant molecules accumulate inside TRIPLAN LightClean® on a panel consisting of small glass tubes measuring about six inches in length,” says Beck. The individual glass tubes are coated with a semiconductor material using a specially developed process. When stimulated by UV light, cold combustion converts the contaminants into carbon dioxide and water. TRIPLAN LightClean® then releases the cleansed air back into the room.
To achieve this innovation, the Harburg-based company employs DURAN® borosilicate glass tubing from SCHOTT. This special purpose glass offers key advantages that make it an ideal catalyst carrier: ”It has a much higher level of efficiency than any other material,” says Beck. ”Because of the high transparency of the DURAN® glass tubing, the UV light can penetrate deep into the reactor and reaches a much larger activation surface using the same amount of energy,” explains Dietmar Katlun, Area Sales Manager at SCHOTT Technical Tubing. This also makes TRIPLAN LightClean® highly sustainable: ”Unlike conventional filters, the coated glass tubing can be used endlessly since it is not corroded by oxidation,” says Beck. This is because this special glass is chemically highly resistant and can withstand major temperature changes.
The idea for the convenient air-cleaning system for old buildings came about more by chance than by design. ”We originally wanted to develop a way to clean toxic exhaust air in laboratories,” explains Beck. Photocatalysis turned out to be too weak for high concentrations of toxic contaminants. ”But we discovered that it worked exceptionally well with lower concentrations like those that are common in prefabricated houses and old buildings,” says Beck. The system is not only effective against so-called chloranisoles that cause corked wine, but also against formaldehyde (often used to glue together particle board and laminate) and ozone (produced by old printers). All of this would not have been possible without the help of SCHOTT, as Beck states: ”Mr. Katlun and his colleagues did not just supply a product; they also supported us with their technical expertise.” Prototypes of TRIPLAN LightClean® are currently in progress. “French winemakers and the old building renovation sector have already recognized the potential”, states Beck. Over 30 large devices have already been delivered to wine cellars in France. “The first customers are all extremely happy with the performance of the devices, particularly regarding the reduction of chloroanisole odour”, assures Beck. The managing director sees further uses in addition to stale old buildings and corked wine: “Fresh, clean air is also an advantage in medical practices and we have received inquiries for managing odours at workstations, such as acetic acid odours.”