Introducing the new BMW nanofiber filter technology

5 min reading time
Pollen, soot, fine dust, bacteria, pollution particles… As we get smarter, we pay ever more attention to the quality of the air we breathe. We learn more about its effect on our everyday lives – and what we can do to improve it.

24 July 2020

Good vs. bad

But first, let’s take a look at what “good” and “bad air” really means. Generally, when scientists and researchers speak of air quality, they refer to the overall condition of the air that surrounds us. Or rather, to which degree the air is free from smoke, soot, and other manmade pollutants, but also from natural pollutants like pollen, dust, and even microbial articles. When we talk about air quality, then, there are several factors that can contribute to “good” and “bad” air quality, both natural and man-made.

When we talk about air quality, then, there are several factors that can contribute to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ air quality, both natural and man-made.

Common to all these pollutants, however, is that they are found at microscopic levels. Air can have varying degrees of pollutants from multiple sources, but we can’t see them. This makes air quality a tricky phenomenon – we may not know just how bad or good the air we breathe is, as the effect can’t be seen and often not be felt immediately either. In fact, potential harm to our well-being from bad air quality can often only be measured after years of exposure.

Similarly, “air” also doesn’t only refer to the blue sky above us. We often think of air as something which is out in the open, all around and above us. But the importance of good air quality is as pressing a matter for indoor life as it is for the great outdoors. It goes without saying that this applies to the time you spend in your car, too.

The importance of good air quality is as pressing a matter for indoor life as it is for the great outdoors. It goes without saying that this applies to the time you spend in your car, too.
BMW’s new nanofiber filter technology uses a combination of nano fleece and activated carbon to filter out harmful particles and pollutants.

Small details, big effects

This makes improvement of in-cabin air quality a pressing matter for BMW engineers, too. Increased attention to the the air we breathe while driving has meant that BMW engineers have gradually speed up their work on filter solutions that can contribute to cleaner air for life lived in our cars.

Advanced air filtering solutions, however, are not a new phenomenon to BMW owners. Already in 1998, the first BMWs saw the introduction of the so-called combi filters, a combination of activated carbon and traditional particle filters. Later on, as air quality scrutiny grew in particular in China and South Korea, these markets saw the introduction of Fine Dust Filters as standard equipment, in 2015 for China and in 2020 for South Korea. Since then, BMW drivers everywhere have had the option to upgrade their vehicles with these Fine Dust Filters.

“BMW has been working actively on state-of-the-art filter systems since the early nineties,” says Dr. Christian Rosskopf, an expert at the BMW Group. “However, the development we have seen in recent years, including and perhaps in particular, those we see in the fight against urban pollution, has meant that we have sped up the introduction of our latest filter technologies.”

The result of this work is a new nanofiber filter technology, which will debut already in fall 2020.

Installed as traditional air filters between air intake vents and in-cabin climate systems, these nanofiber filters are made up from an intricate, microscopic “net” of nanofiber fleece and activated carbon elements that filter out and protect drivers from not just carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, but also up to 40 percent more harmful particles than current filter technologies. This includes micro-bacterial particles, allergens like pollen, as well as soot, emission particles, and ultrafine dust particles, as small as 100 nanometers in size. For a sense of scale, one nanometer equals 1/1,000,000th millimeter. A human hair, for comparison, typically has a diameter of around 70,000 nanometers.

The development we have seen in recent years, including and perhaps in particular, those we see in the fight against urban pollution, has meant that we have sped up the introduction of our latest filter technologies
Dr. Christian Rosskopf

Expert at the BMW Group

Take a deep breath

Fast forward to 2020, and the next developments in filter technology are as such already knocking at our doors. The introduction of nanofiber filter technology, already years in development by BMW engineers, was given high priority as eyes on the air pollution around us grew in numbers.

The new nanofiber filters work in conjunction with BMW’s exterior air quality measurement technology, which is capable of measuring air quality in a vehicle’s surroundings and automatically initiating an in-cabin Air Flush Mode. This cleanses most cabin air in only a few minutes. The function can be activated and deactivated manually too, as well as it can be set to pre-cleanse the cabin ahead of your next ride using theBMW ConnectedDrive app.

All said and done, the growing attention to measuring and understanding the air around us and using these insights to prevent adverse effects is crucial to our general well-being – inside and outside life lived in our cars, says Dr. Christian Rosskopf.

“The air we breathe is perhaps our most important resource. It is our job to ensure that our vehicles live up to the applicable emissions standards, but also that we offer innovative and intuitive solutions to drivers themselves. Our new nanofiber filters have been developed and introduced ahead of schedule to this end; it’s our way of saying that we understand just how important good, clean air is to drivers today – and that we are intent on doing our part to maintain their wellbeing, on and off the road.”

How it works

Illustration of how BMW’s new nanofiber filter technology works to reduce pollutants and improve in-cabin air quality.

Air intake takes place through the vehicle’s front parts. From here, it reaches the air filter units. Thanks to the nanofiber filters’ ultra-fine components, including the new specially developed nano-fleece and activated carbon layers, microscopic, harmful particles are caught and filtered out. The cleansed air passes through the cabin with help from the vehicle’s climate control system, ensuring clean air circulation for drivers and passengers, before exiting again through vents located on both sides of the vehicle’s rear end.

A special AirFlush Mode can be activated to cleanse most of the cabin’s air in just a few minutes, using the vehicle’s climate control system. AirFlush Mode can be activated automatically using the vehicle’s external sensors as triggers, or manually by using either the corresponding Live Cockpit feature, or the BMW ConnectedDrive app.

Autor: David Barnwell; Illustrations: Cyprian Lothringer