May 27, 2014
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Patents granted for CO2-based allergen removal technique

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University of South Carolina researchers have received two patents for a new method to eliminate allergens and other asthma causes from carpets, mattresses and other furniture.

“Our original concept … was to commercialize carbon dioxide [CO2] technology for medical sterilization,” researcher Michael Matthews, PhD, professor of chemical engineering, University of South Carolina’s College of Engineering and Computing, said in a press release. “However, we realized that there was a critical national need to address the removal of asthma triggers from the home. These triggers, which are actually proteins produced by pets and pests, can be removed with our technology.”

Michael Matthews, PhD 

Michael Matthews

Matthews and fellow researchers developed a process to use CO2 to “freeze clean” home fabrics, according to the release. The method could be ordered by physicians as an intervention for children with asthma, Matthews said.

“The process deactivates proteins found in pet dander and can remove smoke residue and other allergy-causing substances,” the release said. “The freezing process also kills dust mites embedded in carpets and mattresses … and are a major cause of asthma.”

The researchers are working on an application method, utilizing CO2 vapor sprayed directly on fabric. Micro-pellets of dry ice are formed when the vapor cools, which are vacuumed, leaving a dry fabric free of allergy-causing agents. One cleaning treatment can last up to 6 months, with no harm to the fabric, according to the release.

External grants, including two from the National Institutes of Health, are funding the research.