What is an Ionic Air Purifier?

Brandi Lessner

An ionic air purifier is one of many air filtration systems available to the public. Generally, an ion is an electron — a particle of matter — with a negative or positive charge. When an electron is charged, it will become attracted to other particles with the opposite charge, much like the opposite ends of a magnet. An ionic air purifier therefore uses negatively charged ions to balance the ionic charge of the purified air.

An ionic air purifier can help filter out substances like pet dander from a room.
An ionic air purifier can help filter out substances like pet dander from a room.

The invention of the ionic air purifier began in Europe in the 1970s. Many people who lived in areas of the continent that experienced trade winds were becoming ill and meteorologists began looking for the cause. As it turned out, the trade winds had high positive ion counts. Exposure to high amounts of positive ions is called Positive Ion Poisoning and can negatively affect breathing, mood, and overall comfort. In order to counteract high positive ion counts in the air, a way to generate negative ions needed to be invented.

An ionic air purifier draws air in from a room through an internal fan. Once the air enters the purifier, it usually passes through several stages of filtration. The first stage usually is a carbon-based filter that removes odors and potentially removes toxins, such as ammonia. Next is a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter made out of fiberglass that blocks many bacteria and viruses. Air inside the purifier eventually reaches the ionizer, at which point the ionizer charges the air particles with a negative charge.

The negatively charged particles leave the purifier and pursue matter around the room while looking to bond with positive ions. When this bond occurs, the new particle becomes heavier than the ionized particle by itself. This removes unwanted substances, such as pollen, pet dander, smoke, and dust, from the air and transfers them to solid surfaces around the room.

In order to ensure that the ionized particles are not left in the room, a designated area may be provided within or around the ionic air purifier for the particles to be attracted to. This area usually takes the form of several metallic rods or blades within the device. These devices are positively charged and bond with the newly-ionized particles.

People who suffer from allergies caused by pet dander, seasonal allergens, or dust may benefit from the addition of a well-constructed ionic air purifier in their home. Also, individuals who smoke indoors may significantly decrease the smell and stains caused by smoke landing on household surfaces. Ionic air purifiers typically can be purchased at drug stores, general big-box retailers, and over the Internet.

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