Connecting SMEs for a green economy

Clean air thanks to wooden filter mats

Andreas Bauer's picture

This filter system not only removes microorganisms from the airflow, but also kills them in the material thanks to the antimicrobial properties of wood.

Project idea

Wood is a material with a rich tradition. In the past years, its use for hygiene purposes became controversial because the hygienic characteristics of wood are considered not as good as those of synthetic materials and metals. However, recent scientific research reveals that wood has antimicrobial effects: microorganisms enter the porous structure of the wood and are subsequently deactivated. The heartwood from pine trees can kill bacteria, fungi and viruses in a short time period.

An innovative product

The goal of the cooperation project was to find applications for new wooden products utilising the disinfecting properties of wood. The team focused on the development of wood products that are suited for the microbiologic purification of contaminated air and that work as filters through the absorption of microorganisms.

Gustav Wilms OHG, specialized in the production of ecologically-relevant wood products, developed a new wood-based filter system. The raw material was pine wood chips, similar to those that originate as by-products of wood processing. Due to their large surface, the wood chips offer a lot of contact surface for the agglomeration of microorganisms. Afterwards, the team tested different manufacturing processes for the chips, determined the optimal grain size and developed filter mat modules. The German Institute of Food Technologies tested the air-flow design and optimised the cleansing effect.

The result of this cooperation is a filter system that not only removes microorganisms from the airflow, but also kills them in the material thanks to the antimicrobial properties of wood. This is a key advantage in comparison to conventional filters which also remove microorganisms from the airflow, but allow them to multiply which can lead to air quality problems. Another advantage of the new filter is the nature of its material: pine tree wood is a renewable, local raw material and is available in large quantities.

The wood chips can be produced in a resource-friendly way from by-products of the wood industry. Used filter material can be burned for disposal, which provides heat at the same time. Another beneficial effect of the filter is the enrichment of the air with substances from the pine tree, which have a positive influence on well-being.

The construction of a new filter is flexible and can be adapted to the amount of air and the pressure from the air flow. The amount of microorganisms in the air can strongly fluctuate without diminishing the filtering power of the system.

The filter is self-cleansing and can be installed in the ventilation systems of apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, stalls and in mobile facilities such as ships and airplanes.

Market and customers

The mat filters made of fine pine wood chips are already generating significant interest. The good availability of the raw material, the high acceptance of natural materials and the simple disposal of the chips give this new product good market prospects.

Cooperation partners

The Wilms company was founded in 1893 as an individual enterprise and is now a general partnership. Since 1971, the small business has evolved from a small panel-manufacturing sawmill to an innovative wood-processing business and industrial services provider. Wilms OHG currently employs 117 workers in two locations: Bad Essen and Melle-Buer.

The German Institute of Food Technologies comprises over 140 member businesses from the food industry and related sectors. It works as a research institute in product and process development as well as analytics. The headquarters are located in Quakenbrück.

Project topic: Development of a wood-based filter mat from pine wood chips.

Project implementation:

Gustav Wilms OHG
Heinrich Wilms
Im Glanetal 6
49152 Bad Essen - Barkhausen
Telefon 05427 9225-0

German Institute of Food Technologies
Dr.-Ing- Volker Heinz
Prof.-von-Klitzing-Str. 7
49610 Quakenbrück
Telefon 054 31183-0

References in german:
Bundesministeriums für Wirtschaft und Energie

Further details

How was the green solution financed?: 
Would you characterize the green solution as: 
Low capital intensive investment (i.e. €500 - €3,000)
Operating and maintenance costs: 
Yes, low O&M costs