When Phil Yuen ’00 heard Cornell was reopening for in-person learning this fall, he saw an opportunity to partner with the university to help make campus safer. His company, Aurabeat Technology in Hong Kong, has developed an air filtration system that can eliminate 99.9% of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from the air indoors.
“I saw on the news that Cornell was one of the few schools deciding to let folks back on campus and do in-person lessons,” Yuen says. “And I thought, let’s find a way to get our product out there and help.”
His hard work, jumping through a lot of logistical and production hoops, paid off. Yuen was able to manufacture and donate 30 units to the Statler Hotel, which has been used to house students in isolation because of COVID-19.
When the pandemic began, Yuen partnered with scientist Roger Sze To, former research assistant professor of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the technical director of Aurabeat. Yuen said Sze To “told me, ‘This [virus] is going to be lifechanging.’ Unfortunately, he was right.”
The two refined some of the work Sze To had already started to create a filter that not only removes viruses from the air, but kills any that remain on the filter itself. Sze To fine-tuned the filters to specifically target SARS-CoV-2, and the company developed two lines of products – filters than can be installed in existing HVAC systems, and a stand-alone home-use product.
Yuen, who is CEO of Aurabeat, wanted to bring the technology to people who need it, starting in his own community. Since the start of the pandemic, Aurabeat has successfully installed the new anti-viral filters in government buildings, hospitals, and blood donation centers throughout Hong Kong. Restaurants and gyms have been ordering units, and the company has also donated some to local schools and elderly homes.
The next step was bringing the technology to Cornell.
Kaitlin Provost is a writer for Alumni Affairs and Development.