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London Underground inspires student to design wearable air filter

When UX design student Mia Patterson Cox spent a year in London on placement, she quickly became aware of the poor air quality on the city’s underground network.

‘I often thought about the hot stuffy environment and would be concerned when I found dust around my nostrils after travelling on underground trains,’ she explains. ‘It made me feel uneasy about the time I spent in the network, prompting me to explore the problem of pollution.’

As an Industrial Design and Technology graduate, specialising in user experience design, it was not long before this became a problem to solve rather than suffer.

‘I wanted to create a product that will increase commuter and passengers’ health confidence when travelling underground by removing iron-rich particles in the air.’

Researching the issue, Mia found that  50% of the pollution particles found in the London Underground are iron oxides caused by the abrasion of train and carriage wheels on the track. Furthermore, she found that the air quality is 40% worse on the platform than in other areas of the network, as the constant arrival and departure of trains continually resuspends the particulate matter.

By way of response, Mia created Aerate, a wearable device which provides the user with clean, filtered air. Resembling a pair of headphones, Aerate incorporates two fans to draw in air, which is then filtered before being released in front of the user’s face.

The Spunbond Polypropylene filters will catch particles as small as PM2.5.

The fans propel purified air in front of the user’s face at 5500 rotations per minute which, explains Mia, creates a protective barrier against harmful particles during underground travel.

Of course, by filtering particles from the air, the Aerate increases air quality for other commuters too. ‘I purposely didn’t want to create a product that benefited only the users,’ Mia says. ‘By continuously filtering out iron particles and other pollutants, Aerate contributes to a healthier environment for all passengers travelling on underground trains.’

Importantly, Aerate is equipped with an air quality sensor which can feed this information to the user via an app. The AUTO button on the equipment will set the fan speed to a level based on the air quality determined by the sensor.

The app lets the user view live data readings of PM2.5, PM1 and iron levels in the atmosphere. It also advises the user of when the filters should be changed, provides analytics of past journeys and offers educational resources concerning air quality issues.

Mia is currently exploring ways to get Aerate into production. She told us, ‘I would love to take it to market so if there could be a way for me to work with investors to get things started then that would be great.’

She adds: ‘I am also seeking graduate employment in design and received a First Grade Honours just yesterday (4th July) on my Industrial Design and Technology BA course, if you’d be able to include this?’

Of course we can.

Mia can be contacted through her Loughborough University School of Design and Creative Arts page 

Paul Day
Paul is the editor of Public Sector News.

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