Giant E3 project has already shown results in management of pandemics and airborne infection risk
The E3 Excellence in Pandemic Response and Enterprise Solutions project researches spread and transmission of airborne pathogens and viruses. The research group compares different infection risk models and establishes how well they describe real infections.
Aerosol physics specialist and TAMK’s Senior Lecturer Sampo Saari has developed the infection risk model related to aerosol spread. It is an important tool for example in management of pandemics in day-care centres.
The model is used for managing different parameters. The experimental research produces diverse data on respiratory aerosol emissions, viability of viruses, ventilation and indoor air quality.
Day-care centre research offers information for management of pandemics
Four day-care centres located in Helsinki collect information on the children’, parents’ and day-care centre staff’s illnesses. Saliva samples reveal what infections they have. Bioaerosol collectors gather air samples which are analysed with the PCR test.
The researchers are interested in what is the role of ventilation and indoor air quality in preventing virus spread. The research offers information on what types of viruses there are in day-care centres, if they are for example COVID-19 or rhinovirus, which causes the common cold. Air cleaners help to clean the air. The focus is on airborne viruses and thus the proportion of infections spread by touch is not researched.
TAMK’s expertise in building services engineering and architectural solutions is a valuable addition to the project. Measurement of indoor air quality offers information on carbon dioxide levels and air humidity.
“We also have competence in sensor placement and data analysis. We are developing the sensor network and measurement system and testing them at TAMK campus. We aim at producing information on the infection risk through the measurement data.”
Professional singers promoted science
Helsinki University Hospital harnessed 30 professional singers to sing, cough and yell in an aerosol chamber developed by TAMK. The experiment tested respiratory aerosol emissions and related pathogens: what is their origin and what individual differences are caused by different illnesses and medications. Emissions are an important parameter in risk models and they are not yet known very well.
In the case of COVID-19, we talk about super-spreaders. Viruses often spread in clusters and one person may spread and infect more than others.
“We are researching the super-spreader mechanism and its causes. The aerosol chamber was planned and built on our building services engineering students’ project course. The research and chamber results have a key role in the whole project,” Saari says.
The researchers are also interested in physiology. Vocal folds are a particle producer and thus the singers’ vocal folds were scanned and their individual differences are now studied. The 20-70-year-old singers were eager to participate.
“We had a variety of voices, samples and further research ideas. The singers considered it important that they had the chance to produce research information on emissions. They also hoped that the project results will genuinely help in risk management and thus safe organisation of events.”
Saari makes a data analysis of the thousands of particle research data rows. As the particles are small, it has been necessary to develop the measurement method. The singer experiments have already produced preliminary information on emissions and their minimisation.
Practical cases help in producing new information
The giant project funded by Business Finland has a practical orientation and opens new business possibilities and markets for enterprises.
“This is a very exceptional project even internationally as the E3 project is genuinely interdisciplinary. It calls for specialists in engineering, aerosol physics, medicine and building services engineering. We have already found a joint language and learnt to communicate our competence. Interdisciplinarity also teaches the researchers and specialists.”
Excellence in Pandemic Response and Enterprise Solutions E3 is one of the largest Finnish projects ever between enterprises and research organisations. The budget of the Business Finland funded project is €12 million. The project lasts for 2.5 years and it is coordinated by Tamlink and Spinverse. The research organisations are the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, University of Helsinki, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Tampere University of Applied Sciences and Tampere University.
See the project website https://www.pandemicresponse.fi/
School of Pedagogical Innovations and Culture
Tampere University of Applied Sciences
sampo.saari [at] tuni.fi, 040 658 7553
Text: Hanna Ylli
Photo: Sampo Saari