Amid an online semester and a global pandemic, Olivia Cash ’21 did what any engineering major would do: she started problem-solving.
Alongside her dad, Jim Cash ’85, and the support of some peers in TCNJ’s School of Engineering, Olivia is working on a novel way to combat the novel virus.
Working as a product development managed for industrial air pollution control, Jim has spent 35 years of his career understanding air quality issues and developing products to mitigate them. Now armed with the science showing that COVID-19 spreads through droplets and aerosols in the air we breathe, the Cashes are working on a patent-pending technology that captures and eliminates these aerosols before they can pass from person to person, and is made to fit into just about any indoor environment.
“This is how engineering solves problems — by first understanding them,” Olivia says.
The idea is surprisingly simple: intercept the “dirty” air and replace it immediately with cleaned and purified air that is free of expelled droplets and ready to breathe.
Using fluid dynamics, the movement of the air is controlled with their system which can be seamlessly blended into furniture, providing a clean, safe, and more intimate gathering space that would allow people to get back to working and dining together and breathing freely — all sans mask.
“The main problem with putting filters in regular ductwork is that people next to each other can still transmit dirty droplets back and forth,” says Olivia.
Over the summer, Olivia formed a corporation, livFREEair LLC, and applied for her first patent through the COVID pilot program. Her technology not only captures the expelled air immediately, but also provides an envelope of viral-free clean air around the occupants so that they are constantly breathing the freshest, cleanest air possible.
Olivia and Jim currently have two prototypes in the works: a conference/dining room table for large groups to use in an office or school setting, and a four-person high top table. Olivia also has plans to build out a student desk.
The Cashes hope their new technology will help in the global fight against COVID-19 as well as help facilitate more in-person interactions.
“We’ve all been affected by the virus,” says Jim, whose other daughter Leigh Ann experienced COVID-19 firsthand while caring for patients as an ER nurse, and whose mother is isolated in a nursing home. “I viewed the current solutions as wholly inadequate because they required separation that lead to loneliness and lack of human connection.”
The problem, he says, is in the air, and that the products they’re pitching are an investment in clean air technology even beyond COVID-19.
“We want people to breathe with confidence,” he says.
— Emily W. Dodd ’03