There's nothing quite like throwing a window open and letting the breeze waft through to bring unmistakeable freshness to a room. It's the same when you hang laundry outside on a warm summer's day - and it's all, I am told, thanks to hydroxyls. Hydroxyls form when UV light from the sun acts on water vapour in the atmosphere, converting H2O into HO (hydroxyls) and other free radical oxidants. It is the hydroxyls that act as the planet's own cleaning mechanism, reacting with microorganisms in the air and on surfaces decomposing molecules that cause odour and fumes, and attacking the cell walls of mould, bacteria and viruses. It is the hydroxyls that create that 'breath of fresh air' sense when we air a room or hang our laundry.
"Studies began to find out how the earth gets rid of smoke, bacteria, viruses and the like," explains J Robert Wren, president of Vikand Technology Solutions. "You hang a garment up in the sun and the smell goes - that's hydroxyls. As a company we have invested heavily in technology and research into these hydroxyls. The result is our hydroxyl generator - and we're the only company that can make these on an industrial scale."
Vikand's patented tech, marketed under the banner of daughter company Hygensea, comprises a small unit that fits into the existing HVAC system. The unit fires UV light at multiple wavelengths at the air flowing through the system which mimics the effect of sunlight on atmospheric air, creating the hydroxyls. "Once we've created the hydroxyls they are carried into the space being ventilated, so the room becomes the killing space," says Wren. "Anywhere air can get, it kills bacteria, mould, gets rid of smells and sanitises. The sun creates up to two million hydroxyls per cubic centimetre of air, and these molecules want to bond - it is this process that reduces bacteria and the like to base chemicals. You're not trapping anything or ionising it, but destroying it completely. For example, when we use the system to clean a smoke-filled casino it also kills the carcinogens."
If it all sounds either a bit too good to be true, or a bit too garage science to be genuine, Vikand not only has a stack of papers to back up the scientific theory, but also a series of satisfied customers particularly in the cruise liner industry. The tech is also used in ambulances and medical areas and, Wren says, even car manufacturer Toyota uses it in their leather section. Its effectiveness at clearing smoke and smoke odours from shipboard casinos is now well documented, and it is not difficult to see the potential benefits not only for keeping interiors generally fresh, but also for tackling stray odours from galley, fuel, grey and black water tanks, and other elements of marine life where damp and other aspects can have an impact on the onboard environment.
With the Hygensea Odorox units measuring up to 12 inches by 9 inches, the impact on space is minimal, and the company also produces portable units if you don't want to add the system to existing HVAC. The location of the install is also unimportant. "It doesn't matter if it's two metres or 20 metres from the room, the hydroxyls will get there," says Wren. "They also have a cascading effect, so within hours the hydroxyls are everywhere in the room, and as they can get everywhere air can get, they are ideal for tackling mould and odours that may form behind panelling or in other awkward or hidden spaces."
While the tech is already being used in other sectors, it has only recently been introduced to superyachts. However, that could soon change - not only are the first couple of installs being completed, but the company is also working with a couple of the leading HVAC companies who are trialling the tech in two or three pilot projects. And while the tech is suitable for retrofit, it would ideally be added into the systems design at the engineering phase of a new-build project. Either way, this innovative green approach, using all-natural solutions, could prove highly interesting for yachts as a way of keeping interiors fresh and sanitised - a breath of fresh air indeed, perhaps
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