Honors College Theses

Publication Date



Mechanical Engineering (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Aniruddha Mitra


The main goal of this research project is to determine the effectiveness of commercially available air filters and to compare different kinds of commercially available air filters in certain categories. With recent record-breaking wildfires and the Covid-19 pandemic, research on the effects and features of nanoparticles has become increasingly important. Inhalation of nanoparticles in smoke can result in severe health effects on humans, affecting especially the respiratory system. As nanoparticles can pass through cell membranes, absorption occurs rapidly and affects many different parts and functions of the human body. While air filters are an effective method of reducing small-sized particles in flowing air, current filtration standards only apply to larger scaled microparticles, and filtration efficiencies for nanoparticles are often unknown.

A good understanding of the effectiveness of air filters and masks is crucial to prevent inhalation of nanoparticles. Using a wind tunnel and two different types of woodsmokes, the penetration rates of nanoparticles through air filters were determined. Tests were performed with four different air filters using woodsmoke from hickory and applewood pallets. Due to outliers affecting mean and standard deviation values, a JavaScript code was written to eliminate outliers from the data sets. Trials with hickory smoke provided more consistent results than with applewood smoke. Average filtration effectiveness using hickory smoke was relatively close for all air filters at around 50%. Results from applewood smoke were relatively inconsistent. Due to a wide range of data and high standard deviations, effectiveness could not be established precisely.

Thesis Summary

This thesis analyzes the filtration efficiency of commercially available air filters for nanoparticles generated by woodsmoke. Four different air filters were tested for two different kinds of smoke. While trends were observed, high standard deviations caused inconsistent results.