Background Fine particulate matter (PM2.5), a major pollutant found in smoke from fires, has been linked to respiratory and cardiovascular health effects including ischemic heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular mortality, and exacerbations of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Current public health advice for protection from smoke exposure during wildfires is to stay indoors, preferably in a “clean room” with filtered air, close windows and doors, and minimize physical exertion. However, current air cleaning technologies for indoor air have multiple limitations that prevent their widespread use and adoption, including the cost of purchase, operation and maintenance as well as dependence on electrical power, which can be disrupted by wildfires or rolling blackouts. In addition, wildfires often occur in the summer and early fall in regions of the United States where many homes do not have air conditioning, so closing windows can lead to very high indoor temperatures.
EPA is partnering with LRAPA and 9 federal, state, tribal and local organizations to stimulate the development of new technologies to clean indoor air. The first step in this effort is the development and launch of a competition called a Challenge, which offers a cash prize for the best technology design for cleaning indoor air during wildfire smoke events and high pollution days.
Through this challenge, EPA and its partners encourage the development of new approaches, technologies, or technology combinations (termed "solutions") for keeping indoor air as clean as possible during periods when outdoor PM2.5 concentrations are elevated.
The challenge is intended to encourage the development of new approaches, technologies, or technology combinations that meet the following objectives:
Significantly reduces indoor PM2.5, specifically, in a room of at least 150 square feet with eight-foot ceilings and PM2.5 concentrations ranging from 35 – 300 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3):
The solution should achieve greater than 80% reduction in PM2.5 concentration within one hour in a room while using the solution versus the PM2.5 concentration in the same room, under the same conditions, without using the solution. (For this submission, the Solver can assume no indoor sources, no open windows or doors, and no additional flow/sources, e.g., from home air handling operation).
The solution should maintain performance under real-world conditions, i.e., that the solution maintains indoor reductions over sustained periods of time (a few weeks) during high outdoor concentrations.
If the solution has novel design features that address some of the "additional criteria" outlined below, some decrease in the amount and speed of PM2.5 reduction is acceptable. The Solver should provide an analysis of the benefits that are derived from this novel approach, showing how they balance the tradeoffs of more modest results.
For any solution, any assumptions should be clearly stated.
Costs no more than $100 per functional unit with all components to purchase
Operates at less than 45 decibels
Is safe to operate continuously for weeks at a time
Additional design features that are desired (but not required):
Cools the room without drawing in smoky or polluted air
Is sustainable to use: operating and maintenance costs are low, replacement parts are available/accessible, waste is minimized
Uses a battery or other option for operation during power outage
Reduces other pollutants (e.g., volatile organic compounds – VOCs)
The design should avoid:
Generation of any air pollutant (e.g., ozone)
Any design based primarily on a box fan with a commercially available filter attached
Solvers are not required to give up any of their intellectual property (“IP”) rights to the Seeker (Challenge organizers) to be eligible to receive an award.
The Seeker intends to select up to five finalists to receive awards of up to $10,000 each from a total award pool of $50,000. The Challenge award will be contingent upon results of critical analysis and evaluation by the Seeker. Meeting the technical requirements does not guarantee that the proposed solution will receive an award from the Seeker. Partial cash prizes of less than $10,000 may be considered for solutions that meet some, but not all, of the criteria. The Seeker can also allocate higher individual award amounts, as deemed appropriate.
Winning Solver(s) may be invited to participate in a subsequent competition. Depending on the results of this Challenge and on the availability of funds, the Seeker intends to ask Solvers to submit prototypes for testing.