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Sharp Plasmacluster

Sharp Plasmacluster Offers Breathing Relief

by Jim Bray

Now here's a product that promises to be a breath of fresh air!

It's called the “Plasmacluster,” a doohickey from Sharp Electronics that's meant to enhance your life not by creating beautiful pictures or sound, but by helping you breathe better at home or in the office.

Billed as an air purifier, Sharp's Plasmacluster uses both passive air filtration and active air treatment to tweak the air that you breathe, cleaning it of pollen and other stuff you don't want taking up residence in your lungs. All in a handsome unit that looks almost like a cross between an old fashioned soldier's shield and an R2D2 unit that ran into a brick wall at really high speed.

Sharp makes two models of Plasmacluster, the FP-N60CX (which the company says will remove airborne impurities from a 330 square foot room) and the FP-N40CX (which Sharp says scrubs a 253 square foot room). We were sent the latter of the units and while I don't think it's going to be a panacea for those with allergies (my particular allergy is to honest work, and the Sharp was useless at helping that!), it does seem to have improved things in a house that's extremely prone to airborne dust and cat hair. I still need shots of nasal spray, but not as many and not as often. And that's something.

The units work by using both “Triple filtration and Sharp's patented Plasmacluster technology.” According to the company, “Triple filtration is the passive technology that consists of a Pre-Filter, an Active Carbon Filter, and a True HEPA filter.”

Here's how it works, kind of.

Air is sucked into the front of the Plasmacluster, being pulled through the filter systems. The Plasmacluster technology goes to work on the individual atoms, converting them to oppositely-charged hydrogen and oxygen ions (for those who have too many “ions” in the fire) and then releasing them back into the room.

This army of ions then spreads out through the room and is surrounded by water molecules, forming clusters (Plasmaclusters, not surprisingly), which then head into battle attacking airborne particles and molecules that are attracted by their electrical charge. These evil odor particles immediately surrender in the best French tradition, leading to a more peaceful and friendly room environment where enemies such as pet odors, cigarette smoke and kitchen smells no longer terrorize your lungs.

I make light of this, but for many people breathing is no laughing matter. And I don't know if a Plasmacluster is going to be the be-all and end-all for them, but every little bit helps, so methinks there's a large market out there just primed and waiting for a product such as this.

Using the Plasmacluster couldn't be a lot easier. Its remote control is simple and straightforward, though I found the buttons' labels so small that I couldn't read them without wearing my glasses. The main control is also duplicated on the top of the unit itself, via a big button you press repeatedly to choose the setting you want.

My favorite setting was “automatic,” which takes all of the skull sweat out of the process. There's also “silent,” “medium,” “high,” “maximum” and “pollen.” An indicator light next to the mode indicator lights changes color according to how much filth is in your room (green meaning the air's clean, with red indicating a gas mask may be in order). And a great big “Plasmacluster” indicator light shows green or blue depending on how busy it is.

There's also a timer setting and a built in odor sensor that, for some reason, seemed to kick the unit into overdrive every time I walked by.

Okay, I'm kidding. It was only every second time.

Sharp says the True HEPA filter will last up to five years before you need to replace it; even better, the Active Carbon Filter is washable (and the process is relatively simple). When the unit senses that it's time to hose it down (figuratively), a red light illuminates and stays that way until you reset it via the remote control.

According to the press materials I received with the unit, the system has proved to be successful against bacteria and virus such as influenza, E. Coli, colon basillus, poliovirus and more, on top of its ability to go after generally smelly stuff in the room.

We tried the Plasmacluster in a couple of different locations. One I was particularly interested in testing was outside our main bathroom, where other people's odors are known to congregate. I was quite impressed with how the unit would clean such odors; it was better than just turning on the room's fan by itself.

It would also come on when someone would shower, scrubbing the air madly as the person in the tub scrubbed away madly.

Sharp obviously thinks there's a sizable market for the Plasmacluster, or it would have invested its substantial research department in other areas (not that it doesn't already, of course), and they may be right. According to their PR agency, studies conducted by Sharp and the Department of Molecular Biotechnology of the Graduate School of Advanced Sciences of Matter at Hiroshima University (now there's a mouthful!) have shown that the gadget actually reduces the instance of “allergy-related disorders including bronchial asthma, atopic dermatitis and allergic rhinitis.”

And they say that, in Canada at least, asthma and allergy sufferers account for up to 14 per cent of the population. So they must smell (no pun intended) some profit potential there – and if they can turn a buck while helping some people breathe a little easier that's even better.

As mentioned, even though I've been using the smaller Plasmacluster for a couple of months, I still have to use my nasal spray when I get stuffed up. But not as much and not as often – and that's okay with me.


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January 31, 2006