Vancouver student Raymond Wang won the world's largest high school research competition by developing a new way to keep germs from spreading inside an airplane.
The 17-year-old received the $75,000 award at the 2015 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a prestigious international competition for science research and innovation.
Wang said his research was inspired by news reports in December about the Ebola outbreak in Africa. He realized Ebola isn't spread through the air — but plenty of other serious diseases are. Wang said he was impressed by a "pretty scary statistic" from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: if a passenger has a disease such as H1N1 and walks into a plane's cabin, he has the potential to spread the disease to as many as 17 other passengers on the flight.
He created simulations of airflow inside the cabin of a Boeing 737 and used those simulations to design devices that would fit inside a plane's existing air inlets. Wang's method of changing airflow would improve the availability of fresh air by more than 190 percent, while reducing airborne germs by up to 55 times.
“With the traditional cabin, what’s happening is you’ve got two large, turbulent swirls happening. You’re spreading disease across the rows and longitudinally,” Wang explained to The Washington Post.
Or, put more simply. “When someone sneezes, there’s a mess everywhere.”
Wang says his device can be installed with just a couple of screws and "overnight you're able to improve cabin airflow economically."
Wang's prototype cost $10 to make, and he estimates it would cost $1,000 and not much time to update an entire airplane. He has already applied for a patent, reports The Post.
This isn't Wang's first invention. He also created a self-cleaning garbage can as well as a device that generates electricity from rain falling on the room. Just ending his junior year of high school, Wang plans to study engineering and business in college.
“It’s one thing to be able to come up with these great ideas, but another thing to be able to promote them to the entire world,” he said.
Watch him describe his invention at the Intel Science and Engineering Fair: