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How IoT with bio-mimicry reduces indoor air pollution

Deepak Puri | June 30, 2016
Biome combines organic approaches with IoT to improve air quality in office buildings, hospitals and condos

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

IoT with bio-mimicry

You may be better off not inhaling-especially when you consider all the airborne pollutants indoors.

The EPA estimates that there are over 65,000 chemicals releasing pollutants into the air that are often too small for regular air filters to catch. Mold, flame retardants on carpets, and vapors from synthetic materials are just some of the sources of this type of pollution. For people with breathing difficulties, children, and the elderly, the impact is especially hazardous.

Biome's solution is based on bio-mimicry: "innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature's time-tested patterns and strategies.The goal is to create products, processes, and policies-new ways of living-that are well-adapted to life on earth over the long haul. The core idea is that nature has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers." 

Nature solves the toughest problems. Why not apply some of those time-tested and organic approaches to solve man-made problems such as air pollution as well? The microbes found on plants' roots naturally absorb airborne substances and supply them as nutrients for the plant to grow. Biome uses this microbe behavior, coupled with IoT sensors, to monitor airborne pollution and use that data to regulate the airflow over the microbes. 


Converting the concept to a commercial solution took Biome some iterations. Just a few of the design challenges included:

  • How could the airflow over roots be increased to remove the most pollutants?
  • How could the operations be modified based on the volume of the room(s)?
  • How could maintenance be simplified with living plants in the unit?
  • How would water, light, and nutrients be delivered to the plants?
  • How should the unit be designed to simplify installation?
  • How could the esthetics and design appeal of the unit be enhanced?

The design process extended over several months to where the unit is now.

Biome product evolution

Biome's solution consists of a wall-mounted unit that has a series of vertical pipes. Small pods with activated carbon in which small plants are growing are inserted into the pipes. At the top of each pipe is a small fan that forces air over the plants' roots. Special sensors are mounted above the Biome unit to measure the concentration of air pollutants, temperature, and humidity. This data, along with the volume of air to be purified, is used to operate the fans and control their speed. Lighting above the unit and a water reservoir at the bottom help minimize the maintenance required.


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