How Do Ionic Air Purifiers Work?

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How Do Ionic Air Purifiers Work?

The air inside an average home overflows with pollutants, bacteria, and other harmful particles. This is why air purifiers are invaluable for people with allergies and respiratory ailments such as asthma. The most common method of purifying air is with filters. Ionic air purifiers use a more complex method than mere filters and reduce contaminants using charged particles. Understanding the basics of how ionic air purifiers work helps buyers make more informed decisions regarding their purchases.


The Science Behind Ionic Air Purifiers

Molecules make up all the particles in the air, including contaminants. These molecules have a stable, neutral charge. Most air ionizers use a process called corona discharge to create negatively charged air molecules.

Corona Discharge

To achieve a corona discharge, air ionizers use several rows of needle-like structures. High electric voltage (with a low current) passes through these needles. Because electrons have a negative charge, they repel each other until they reach the tip of the needle and break free. The free electrons cling to the nearest air molecule, giving that molecule a negative charge and turning it into an ion.

Charged Particles

Because negatively charged particles repel each other, these ions push each other away. As a result, they disperse in all directions without the need for a motorized fan or any other dispersal system. When an ion encounters another molecule, it passes on its negative charge. Contaminants usually consist of large molecules, and ions easily bump into them. The negatively charged contaminants seek a grounded surface, such as a wall or the floor. Modern ionic air purifiers include built-in collector panels that act as magnets for these charged contaminants.


How Effective Are Ionic Air Purifiers?

Because air ionizers work at a molecular level, they can remove even the smallest contaminants, including germs, bacteria, and viruses. According to an article in The New Scientist, ionic air purifiers can wipe out even antibiotic-resistant bacteria present in public hospitals. However, critics of these purifying systems point out the lack of extensive testing on this technology and insist poorly designed units can prove hazardous to users' health. Because the contaminants stick to floors and walls as well as the collector panels, users have to clean the units and their homes regularly. Not doing so allows the contaminant particles to re-pollute the air.

Comparing Air Purifying Systems

Compared to other air purifiers, air ionizers are the most well-rounded and efficient systems available. Although other air purifiers are more effective in some cases, they typically have a narrow range of very specific uses. Purifiers that use ultraviolet light, for example, kill microorganisms but fail to handle dust and smoke.


Type of Air Purifying System



Ionic Air Purifiers

Can remove particles up to 0.01 microns

Can remove bacteria and viruses

Most units are easy to clean

Minimal noise

Contaminants could return to the air without frequent cleaning of rooms and collecting panels

Badly-designed units could produce harmful ozone

HEPA Filter Air Purifiers

Can remove particles up to 0.03 microns

Can remove most bacteria

Filtered contaminants not re-released into the air

Cannot filter smaller contaminants such as cigarette smoke

Cannot filter viruses

Filter is sometimes a breeding ground for microorganisms

Activated Carbon

Can remove odors, fumes, and smoke

Filtered contaminants not re-released into the air

Cannot remove larger particles such as dust and other allergens

Cannot remove bacteria and other microorganisms

Ultraviolet Light Purifier

Sterilizes bacteria, molds, and viruses

Cannot purify dust and other allergens

Cannot remove odors, fumes, and smoke


Some ionic air purifiers are actually hybrids that contain additional purifying methods, such as pre-filters with activated carbon. This makes the systems more effective at cleaning the air.


How to Buy Ionic Air Purifiers on eBay

Buyers can start their search for air purifiers on eBay. Typing "ionic air purifier" into the search box found on any page typically provides users with hundreds of results. Adding additional details, such as a brand name, helps buyers find listings that are more precise. Search terms such as "Ionic Pro air purifier" or "Sharper Image air purifier" yields fewer results but are more specific concerning the buyer's needs. Buyers should read the product pages and the seller's policies very carefully, especially for used air purifiers.



Although the operation of air ionizers may seem too complex for average buyers to understand, it is actually just basic science. Air ionizers apply high voltage through several needles to create negatively charged air molecules. These charged molecules attract pollutants and contaminants and remove even the smallest particles from the air. The efficiency and efficacy of ionic air purifiers have made them a staple of air conditioning systems. Air ionizers are truly a worthwhile solution to the common household problem of air pollution.

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