What is the difference between turbulent and laminar airflow, and why should you care?

What is the difference between turbulent and laminar airflow, and why should you care?

For many of us, turbulence is simply what we experience when on a bumpy plane ride. However, there's much more to the story when it comes to turbulence and the flow of the air around us. We're here to break down the two main types of airflow – and why you should know about them.

Air exists all around us. Within this air are countless particles that are made up of dust, pollen, soot, and viruses. Every time we breathe, we ingest millions of these particles.

When particles are spread throughout the air, we are experiencing what is called turbulent airflow.

Turbulent airflow is the chaotic motion of air that mixes air particles and contaminants. We encounter turbulent airflow all around us, such as the output from a hairdryer or an A/C unit, the air circulating in our homes, and even in weather patterns and airplane turbulence.

The downside to turbulent airflow is that it allows contaminants to be spread easily through the air – which is what we saw with the spread of COVID-19. It's impossible to control turbulent airflow on its own. Everything in the air is mixed as a result of this type of airflow.

With turbulent airflow, particles and gasses are constantly moved around and spread. For example, if a bottle of perfume was dropped from a table and smashed into pieces, the smell would travel across the room within seconds. If the air was perfectly still, the scent wouldn't travel. When we think about an airborne virus being spread, the concept of turbulent airflow becomes a bit more concerning.

The alternative to turbulent airflow is laminar airflow. This type of airflow does not mix or spread any particles or gasses – the air is completely organized. The challenge with laminar airflow is that it is quite difficult to maintain, even the slightest instability will create a breakdown and result in turbulence.

Laminar airflow moves in steady layers without mixing at all. Visually, you can think of airflow like syrup. Alternatively, you could imagine cars on a highway that stay only within their own lane. With laminar airflow, no particles are mixed or spread. If the air is clean, it will stay clean.

Up until now, laminar airflow technology was not available in the home. To completely control the airflow in a room typically requires a lot of equipment and volume. Typically, laminar airflow is seen only in cleanrooms – such as medical facilities and technology development rooms. At AirTulip, we were able to create a revolutionary device that would bring cleanroom technology into the home for the very first time. With the AirTulip Sleep, people can sleep with completely clean air thanks to cleanroom-grade air filters and the air will remain clean as a result of the laminar airflow.

Every day, more studies are released showing the detrimental effects of air pollution on our health and lifespan. By bringing laminar airflow into the home, you can rest easy knowing the air you breathe is safe and clean.