What is an Air Ionizer and How Does it Work? A Comprehensive Guide

Air ionizers are devices that use ions to remove particles, microbes, and odors from the air, making it healthier for people to breathe. They work by charging particles in a room so that they are attracted to walls, floors, tables, curtains, occupants, and other surfaces. This process can cause particles to be resuspended in the air. In some cases, these devices contain a collector to attract charged particles back to the unit.

The National Health Service (NHS) investigated the effectiveness of anions for air purification and discovered that recurrent airborne acinetobacter infections in a room were eliminated by installing a negative air ionizer; the infection rate dropped to zero. A manufacturer has also discovered that positive and negative ions produced by air conditioning systems can inactivate viruses, including the flu. Ionizers expel negative ions that cause particles to adhere to surfaces. They are not good purifiers because most ionizers are too weak to take effect; they produce harmful ozone and PM2.5, and make particles stick to surfaces in the house instead of actually eliminating them. Smart Air is a B-Corp certified social enterprise that offers simple and sensible air purifiers and provides free education to protect people from harm from air pollution. Ionization decreases considerably with distance (even in ducts), so air ionization is rarely used for this purpose, and only for the elements immediately adjacent to the actual ionizer.

TEQOYA air ionizers purify indoor air using very few resources (just 1.5 watts of energy), without filters or other consumables. The SARS epidemic fueled the desire for personal ionizers in East Asia, including Japan (where many products have specialized to contain negative ion generators, including toothbrushes, refrigerators, air conditioners, air filters, and washing machines). However, a fanless ionizer doesn't circulate air as quickly, so it could take longer to purify a room. Ionizers use electrostatically charged plates to produce positively or negatively charged air ions (for example, N2+ or O2−; these primary ions immediately cluster with other air molecules such as H2O) to which particulate matter attaches. A number of air purification technologies and several operating modes are available for air purification devices. Ionizing air purifiers are often marketed under a variety of names such as “ion air purifiers”, “air purifiers”, “air purifiers”, “air ionizers” and “needle-tipped bipolar ionization”. The California Air Resources Board offers a list of air purifying devices that emit dangerous amounts of ozone. The flow of negative ions is created and expelled from the ionic optics by electrostatic repulsion and by its attraction to all the objects surrounding the air ionizer.

But did you know that air ionizers have been around since the beginning of the 20th century? The concept originated from the work of scientist Alexander Chizhevsky who studied aeroionization in biology. Unlike air purifiers and disinfectants which use fans and filters (HEPA or carbon) to trap harmful contaminants inside the device, an ionizer “removes” impurities as they float through the room attacking molecules and neutralizing them. Although some have suggested that these devices provide a benefit by correcting a hypothetical ion imbalance, no controlled study has confirmed this effect. There was no constant positive or negative influence of air ionization on anxiety, mood, relaxation, sleep and personal comfort measures.