ESS paves the way for safe school and workrooms

Efficient ventilation thanks to corona simulation, HTL (Higher Technical School) device shows CO2 values

Steyr, September 2021 – How Corona-safe is my workplace? How great is the risk of infection in school classrooms? These are questions that concern many employees, teachers, students and parents. Engineering Software Steyr GmbH (ESS) provides an answer. The simulation software developed by ESS calculates how SARS-Cov-2 is distributed in rooms with different floor plans, heights, temperatures and ventilation situations. Hazardous areas with high concentrations can thus be identified quickly and precisely.

This allows the development of efficient ventilation concepts for a wide range of scenarios to minimize the risk of infection in school classrooms, offices, production halls or cinemas. A device developed by HTL Steyr can also be used to determine the CO2 level in the air. This is important because as the CO2 concentration rises, the concentration of the students drops. These test results can also be easily integrated into the simulation, thus adding a valuable component to the ventilation concept.

It is estimated that the regulations for limiting CO2 emissions in automotive industry could create a penalty of up to 30 billion EUR, equivalent to half of the combined net profits by car manufacturers (as per 2018 figures). But thanks to the latest innovation from ESS, there is an easier solution. The new concept, namely the selective induction method, promises to reduce energy consumption by approx. 9,936.0 GWh annually, equal to 1,540,080 metric tons of CO2. Simply put, that’s more than the annual output of 1 nuclear power plant!

It has long been known that aerosols play a central role in indoor corona infections. However, it is almost impossible to determine how the tiny, suspended particles are distributed and concentrated in rooms under real conditions. “We manage to do this with a floor plan on which windows and doors are drawn, or photos that show the entire room,” says Martin Schifko.

CEO Dr. Martin Schifko & Director Franz Reithuber from the HTL Steyr

Together with his team, the founder and CEO of ESS has developed special software that considers any number of parameters to calculate how aerosols are distributed in the room in a wide variety of situations. “We can simulate how the risk of infection changes when only one or many people are infected, when they move around the room, when windows or doors are opened, and many more scenarios.”

Thanks to highly specialized software and a powerful data center, ESS can develop a ventilation concept within a few days that minimizes the risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2 in offices, production rooms, theaters, restaurants, kindergartens or cinemas.

Safe and performance-enhancing classrooms

The graphics card-based ESS data center, with a capacity of 660 teraflops, allows a wide range of assumptions and scenarios to be calculated. Thus, it is possible to graphically represent not only how differently SARS-CoV2 is distributed in school classrooms when one or more people are infected, the effect of open windows and doors, or which areas are particularly at risk. The ESS software can also simulate the CO2 concentration in classrooms, which is critical for learning success.

The basis for this is provided by the measuring devices built by students of the HTL Steyr to determine the CO2 content. This makes it possible to determine within a very short time whether the concentration of CO2 in classrooms is conducive to successful learning. This is because the ability to learn decreases at high CO2 concentrations. This quickly reaches critical levels if only air purification devices are in use. The ESS software shows where in the room this rises particularly quickly.

The measuring devices built by the students of the HTL Steyr to measure the CO2 concentration

CO2 measuring devices made by students of the HTL

The CO2 concentration in the air we breathe is expressed in ppm (parts per million). Outside in nature, this value is around 400 ppm. The human body also produces CO2 through muscular and mental activity. Because in a classroom, the brain is responsible for about one-third of human CO2 production, this concentration inevitably increases in school classes. “However, the ppm value should not exceed 1,000,” explains Franz Reithuber, the director of HTBLA-Steyr. “If the concentration of CO2 increases, the performance of the students decreases and fatigue increases.

A typical human reaction to such a situation is yawning.” Because this cannot be in the interest of the approximately 110 teachers and 900 students, the “Electronics and Computer Engineering” and “Information Technology” departments developed CO2 measuring devices – long before the current pandemic. In the school’s own workshops, students use the Raspberry Pi single-board computer, a CO2 sensor, WLAN sticks and a housing from the 3D printer to produce a measuring device that delivers current measurement results within seconds via an app on a cell phone and graphically displays the CO2 concentration over time.

Deceptive concentration weaknesses

“If the value approaches 1,000 ppm, air exchange is urgently needed,” says Director Reithuber. ESS’s simulation shows how CO2 is distributed in rooms. The results are surprising, even in rooms with simple floor plans. “We were surprised ourselves at how inhomogeneous the concentration behaves in a classroom,” says ESS Managing Director Martin Schifko. For example, a single low measurement result can be deceptive, he says, because there may be areas with excessive values in the same room. The ESS simulation accurately shows these high concentrations.

“That’s exactly where you need to measure in order to develop an efficient ventilation concept,” Schifko emphasizes. While opening windows and doors or a ventilation system is often sufficient for sufficient air exchange, in some cases it may be necessary to integrate air filters in the windows. “In any case, our simulation shows that significant added value for teachers and students can be achieved with simple and cost-effective solutions.”

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