Aer is a material-driven design concept for a novel consumer home air filter that uses compostable bioplastic materials and an innovative design to create an affordable, accessible, and sustainable solution to clean the air in your home.
Unlike traditional home air filters, Aer's cosmetic housing is composed of the filters themselves; charcoal bioplastic and charcoal-based fabric and paper eliminating the need for traditional exterior housing such as plastic or metal from the consumer ecosystem as well as the dependence on mixed material filters that end up in a landfill.
Aer consists of three primary components; A bioplastic charcoal housing that filters volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a paper and fabric filter base that captures fine particulate matter, and an interior fan unit that supports the base and air baffle controls. Aer's fan is activated on/off by a simple press on the large circular baffle, the fan pulls air in through the base filter and then travels upwards through the charcoal housing where the VOCs are then removed by adsorption on the charcoal walls. The filtration process is aided by the central baffle that slows the exiting air, allowing it to spend more time in contact with the charcoal. The bioplastic charcoal housing is made out of organic compounds; charcoal coconut husks, gelatin, glycerin, and water, and is designed to be composted and replaced when needed. Aer's simple and practical design makes it easy to use, affordable to manufacture, and environmentally friendly, as well as reducing plastic waste in the consumer product ecosystems. Overall, Aer's innovative design and use of bioplastic materials offer a sustainable solution to home air filtration, addressing social, cultural, and environmental factors that affect the accessibility of clean air for all.
Charcoal Bioplastic Experiments
Global air pollution is a growing health concern. The health risks of chronic exposure to air pollutants include respiratory disease, emphysema, bronchitis, asthma cardiovascular disease, and cancer. According to the World Health Organization, 99% of the world's population breathes air that contains high contamination of pollution that exceeds health guidelines. Abating indoor air pollution is a critical issue, because air pollutants inside the home, where Americans spend 90% of their time, can be 2-5 times higher than pollutants outside the home.
The most common approach to improving indoor air quality - the consumer home air filter - carries a number of significant downsides. Most home units follow a narrow design pattern: an exterior plastic housing, an interior fan, and a dual filtration system (one for fine particulate matter and one for gasses). They are costly to own (many in the $200 to $1000 price range), and expensive to maintain. Filters must be replaced often, and are not eco-friendly, since most of the components are not biodegradable or recyclable, and become landfill.
The current model of eco-unfriendly plastic enclosure filter systems paired with the costly price and maintenance of home filtration is a barrier to clean air for lower-income households. Because of these downsides, the most widely used design pattern for home air filtration systems fails to address the urgent problem of improving indoor air quality in an affordable and eco-friendly way.
Not only are existing consumer products expensive and bad for the earth, but they also add to our unhealthy material culture of low-tech plastic appliance clutter. We need eco-friendly and accessible solutions, but we also need to engender an entirely new relationship with the objects and materials that surround us. A relationship of direct engagement with the materials and processes that govern our lives. Regarding air filtration, nothing performs and communicates as clearly and honestly as carbon charcoal.
In response, this project, Aer, proposes a new approach that employs innovative and eco-friendly manufacturing and filtrations methods, creating a more accessible and affordable design solution. The project proceeds through a well-established industrial design methodology including research, exploration, concept design, iteration, refinement, and product development.
In that charcoal is a vital component in improving air quality, this material is explored not only for its functionality as a filtration medium capable of removing VOCs, but also foregrounded strongly in the design of the housing, thereby highlighting the prominence of this castable and moldable bioplastic, and also removing the need for traditional plastics from the product life-cycle ecosystem.
Aer's design aesthetic celebrates the functionality, materiality, and process of air filtration with a simplistic modern approach. The design is a harmonious balance of geometric forms, showcasing the beauty and versatility of the natural material and filtering attributes of charcoal. Aer's iconic design features a multitextured compression molded cone form, which fully realizes the charcoal bioplastic filter, providing a stunning visual representation of the filtering process.
The exterior of the cone filter boasts a heavily textured finish, highlighting the inherent beauty and functionality of charcoal as a cosmetic design choice. This brings a new understanding of purpose, natural beauty, and materiality to the consumer. The cone's interior, where the air exits the filter, is molded with a smooth black finish, symbolizing the cleansing properties of charcoal. The large circular central baffle, which doubles as the on/off button, is designed with a subtle matt texture, complementing the smooth interior of the charcoal cone. The knit charcoal base cover brings a sense of familiarity and contrast to the earthy charcoal. Together all of the elements provide an innovative and delightful sense of purpose and appreciation of materials to home consumer products.
Aer's modern design aesthetic and simple assembly of pieces allows for ease of use, bringing a delightful sense of purpose to home consumer products. Overall, Aer's design is iconic, beautiful, and functional, providing an innovative approach to home air filtration with a new lens on design, materials, and sustainability.
Project Aer elegantly solves two problems - accessible home air filtration and the removal of plastic from the product lifecycle - each of which represents a significant and innovative advance in the specific field of industrial design and contributes in a small way to the larger goal of democratizing global health.