LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Some of the youngest students in Denver returned to the classroom on Jan. 11 with much cleaner air than before thanks to scientists at the University of Colorado.

Professor Mark Hernandez and a team of researchers have studied a live strain of coronavirus similar to COVID-19 since May to help them zero in on the best way to reduce airborne particle exposure in classrooms during the pandemic.

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“We do aerosolize it. We’re trying everything that we can to translate this to practice as rapidly as we can,” Hernandez told CBS Denver.

They did just that, delivering newly designed high-efficiency air filters to more than 20 Denver Public Schools buildings that can stop even the tiniest pollutants.

Hernandez says the filters use a novel cylindrical design that takes in air from all directions, making them higher flow than their older counterparts for the same footprint.

“This kind of new generation of filters that we put in rooms are designed to remove what we sneeze, cough and expel or what we call ‘shed,’” he said.

The filters are also remarkably quiet, and therefore won’t interfere with teaching and normal classroom activities.

More than 100 battery operated monitors will transmit information to the team of CU Boulder environmental engineers in real time.

“We can tell them we need to speed up the filters or we need move them in a better spot or this classroom doesn’t need a filter because the ventilation is really good,” Hernandez said.

Hundreds of filters were provided by Carrier’s Healthy Buildings Program for research. Intel and Colorado’s Ryan Innovation Group also provided philanthropic support for the work.

A major goal for his team, Hernandez said back in May, was getting students back to in person learning.

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“We have to be indoors, right,” he said. “If we are ever going to get back to some resemblance of normal, get our transportation hubs running, get our schools back on their feet, we have to learn how to disinfect quickly.”