It’s time for another physics lesson. This time it is about ions and ionic air purifiers. Many people use them without knowing what is behind their operation. If you are like me and enjoy the behind-the-scene details, then listen up. You will learn something new.

Let’s start with an ion. It is in essence a charged atom or molecule because the number of electrons don’t equal the number of protons. Got it? Try to remember your basic chemistry. You will recall that an atom can acquire a positive or negative charge depending on whether the number of electrons is greater or less than the number of protons. Are you falling asleep yet?

I think it is fascinating stuff, so let’s go on. For clarification, when an atom is attracted to another one because it has an unequal number of electrons and protons, that atom is called an “ion.” It is a positive ion if it has more protons than electrons.

This comes into practical use with an Ionic air purifier. This appliance should help put things into perspective. I am going to use the Sharper Image Ionic Breeze for my example. The company claims it pushes air purification to a new level, all because of ions. The best-selling model is the Comfort Quadra in case you are inspired to go out and buy one. Through the marvel of whisper-quiet ionic technology, it removes dust, pollen, and tobacco smoke from the air. Smaller atomic-sized particles are eliminated, better even than HEPA filters. With an ionic system, you don’t need filters. All you do is clean the permanent stainless steel filter in your sink or dishwasher. Simple as that! You will have clean air in a room of about 400 square feet.

Some reviewers give ionic air purifiers a bad rap because they generate a small amount of ozone as a byproduct of the ionization process. While ozone can be an air pollutant, it is not harmful at this level and you would buy a model that meets US federal and state standards. The Environmental Protection Agency keeps close tabs on the problem. Other than this drawback, and ionic air purifier is efficient and practical. People love the lack of a filter.

Large commercial models have long been used to clean up crime scenes and where odor, smoke, and mold remediation is critical. Permanent removal is possible making the units a valuable tool in certain industries. It is up to you to determine safety hazards when using the smaller appliances at home. There is evidence on both sides. You can’t go wrong if the literature on your ionic air purifier operates within legal ozone limits.

While there are many systems available, the ionic air purifier does a good job of capturing airborne allergens, pet odors, smog and household dust. This is the deciding factor in choosing a unit. Plus, they are easy to use and energy efficient. Collection blades are easy to clean and you save money on replacement filters. So give them a look now that you know how they operate.