For Cristian Cernat, MD of Light Ray Purification, a specialized air purification company based in Johannesburg, there is no such thing as ‘mission impossible’ when it comes to annihilating Covid-19 in our air.
When the virus started spreading globally, Cristian sprang into action. As a mechanical engineer with a wealth of experience in ventilation and air-conditioning systems, he was convinced that the answer to fighting the virus in the built environment lay within the HVAC field.
Through painstaking and extensive study of what he believed to be an airborne disease, interaction with engineering colleagues all over the globe and sheer determination, he finally located the most advanced air purification technology in the world and brought it to South Africa.
Today he is proving that it is in fact ‘mission possible’ to protect people against coronavirus in environments ranging from operating theatres to offices, hotel rooms to restaurants. “You just have to find the right ‘music’ for each of these different environments,” he says, “and it must of course be of highly reputable quality.”
In buildings all over SA, Light Ray has partnered with HVAC engineers and facility managers to install and retrofit a custom-designed mix of BI POLAR ionization (NPBI), radiant Catalytic Ionization, plasma and air handling technologies to provide a unique, symbiotically integrated solution which is proving powerfully effective against the coronavirus.
“As the reality of Covid-19 hit, there were three elements which motivated me to find a way of fighting the impact of this virus on our lives, “ says Cristian. Firstly, my family. I knew that when my children went out through the gate into the world, beyond our home, there was nothing more I could do to protect them at that stage. The spread of Covid-19 was out there.
“Secondly, we employ over 250 people and I wanted to keep them working. Thirdly, having made many contacts in the global air purification industry over the years, I felt compelled to engage with them to find a solution to killing the coronavirus pathogens in our built environment.”
Cristian thrives on finding solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems. Born in Romania, he initially dreamed of being an automotive engineer working on “the red one”, as he jokes. After finishing his studies, he went to Italy in search of his dream job but accessing Ferrari was more complicated than he had anticipated and he joined an air-conditioning company instead.
His engineering career flourished and after spending a holiday in SA, he returned to the country in 1998 to join Aster International, one of the largest entities in the South African HVAC industry at the time
By 2006 he was ready to step away from a more traditional HVAC company and strike out on his own. He soon became aware that as much as he believed the market was ready for an HVAC company with a fresh approach, his competitors did not.
“I felt enormous pressure initially but I stayed focused on how we needed to operate. To start a company you have to be ready to get the job done. I knew we had to always add more value than the job was actually paying, and put the client’s interests first. Your selfishness has to become selflessness.
“Our good name helped us to grow. We had done some very complicated jobs for Netcare, for example, working on chiller plants over Christmas when most people were at home enjoying their Christmas dinner. We built up trust with contractors and suppliers. Once you establish trust you cannot break it. That became our modus operandi.”
In the darkness of a pandemic situation where so much pain was being inflicted on the economy and on people’s health, Cristian says he had a burning desire to get involved meaningfully and bring hope to clients such as hospital groups, with whom he has a strong relationship. Now, with world-class technology imported from Novaerus in Ireland, Plasma Air in USA and Activepure in the USA he has been able to help close the infection control loop in their wards, ICU’s and theatres.
“Long-term, the equipment we have sourced is an absolute ‘must’. We have proved that it works, and globally demand is outstripping supply. The incredible thing is that the technology has always been there but now it has been engineered to make it a lot smarter. The most serious issue that the technology has to address is the time it takes to kill a pathogen. UV technology, for instance, will kill anything that lands on the coil in the fixed part of the equipment but whatever is in the airstream can survive. However, we are currently working with a Japanese company with laboratories in Germany to import ‘far UV’ tech which will be capable of destroying viruses without damaging people’s skin or eyes.”
Carbon and Hepa filtration are used in combination with plasma technology in the Defend 1050 Novaerus machines which Cristian says have incredible value in operating theatres. THE carbon and hepa filtration, ALONE, cannot effectively protect again viruses which survive in tiny droplets when people cough or sneeze. The droplets levitate and remain active in the air for hours.
This is where ActivePure RCI technology takes over, issuing targeted molecules into the air which can kill the virus. The machines were approved by the FDA ONE MONTH AGO .
The ability of Novaerus units to instantly kill (11 milliseconds) via nanostrike technology brings a different approach to the purification, making it possible to use in lifts and fast changing environments; the users are supplied with validation certification indicating exactly where and how the equipment should be used for maximum effectiveness. Smaller units are available for areas between beds in wards and for wall-mounting in corridors.
“With the mix of technology we have sourced from our three primary suppliers, we are able to custom-design applications for clients depending on the use of an environment, its size, the average number of people occupying it and the level of protection required, “ Cristian explains.
“Bipolar ionisation trades electrons with bacteria and virus cells in the air effectively neutralising them, while plasma dielectric barrier discharge destroys the pathogens. As we see with the Novaerus Defend range of machines, they have the fastest kill time of any technology, destroying the DNA and protein of pathogens in a sub-second time-frame. Radiant catalytic ionisation generates a safe-to-breathe purifying plasma which is distributed through air circulation. You can imagine the incredible value of air purification technology like this in an operating theatre. NASA has also made use of it to purify the air in the space shuttle.”
“I have even carried one of our small portable Novaerus machines into a restaurant in KwaZulu-Natal when I was in Umhlanga for an installation,” Cristian says. “I was able to take off my mask, put the machine on the table in front of me and enjoy a glass of wine knowing that the air around me was safe to breathe.”
“If you’re a property visionary, you will have adopted green building practices by now. Now it is imperative to do the same thing with world-class air purification because it is the right and responsible thing to do. Covid-19 is not likely to be the last pandemic we ever face. We have a tried-and-tested compelling solution for a safe and healthy built environment with the technology we deploy.”
Cristian knows that if businesses want to bring their staff back into the office from the safety of their homes, they will need to ensure the workspace provides Covid-free air as far as is humanly possible. The technology is available, he says, and can be supplied and deployed within six weeks.
“We can bring people back into collaborative, social spaces. We can bring people back to being people by deploying Light Ray Purification. We can’t allow our buildings to be hotspots for the spread of a virus. And while you can’t clean your air, we can. We can give you back the certainty of a safe living experience.”