GREENVILLE, Wis.— From plexiglass dividers to touchless parking ticket dispensers, much has changed in the past year at airports around Wisconsin. 

Appleton International Airport hopes one of those changes is a breath of fresh air. Late last month it installed bipolar ionization air purification equipment as part of its efforts to protect passengers and staff from COVID-19 and other airborne particles.

“We’re now releasing negative and positive ions into our air,” said Pat Tracey, the airport’s marketing manager.  “The positive ions bond with dirt and dust, making those items big enough to be stopped by our air filters. But most importantly, the negative ions bond with virus molecules and kill them.”

Without knowing what you’re looking at, the equipment is an unassuming series of blue modules laid out among filters and air intakes deep in the airport’s air-handling equipment. 


“It’s going to mean better quality air, cleaner smelling air, a reduction in VOCs and any kind of bacteria or viruses that may be in the air,” said Operations Supervisor Brandon Lamaide. “It’s going to give an all-around better quality of air throughout the building.”

The ionizing equipment is part of a broader effort to keep passengers and staff safe — from social distancing reminders to a disinfecting mister.

“We are misting our building twice daily with a disinfectant that also kills 99.98% of any COVID virus that would be on a surface a counter,” Tracey said. 

Even though travelers will never see it, the ionizing system runs continuously. It’s expected to keep the air system and building cleaner and reduce costs tied to changing filters.

“We want to make sure everyone feels safe and comfortable coming through the doors,” Lamaide said.