Martin Mogeneyer, lecturer-cum-research scientist at UTC in its TIMR laboratory, specialising in particle systems and Professor Jérôme Robert, head of the Bacteriology Department and head of the Hygiene team at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, have, each in their own field, lent their support to the “stop-Covid” system set up in the Allard restaurant of chef Alain Ducasse.
It was during the first full lockdown that these two research scientists met, at least virtually, since personal travel was impossible. The reason for this “contact”? “It was to work with Martin Morgeneyer’s team on the problem of aerosols and droplets associated with Covid-19 in the air. A project designed to manage the health safety of the hospital’s patients as effectively as possible. Indeed, since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, I have been helping my colleagues in the various departments to organise infection prevention and to provide better care for Covid patients”, Jérôme Robert assures us.
Martin Morgeneyer agrees with him: “The collaboration came about quite naturally and we started to do ‘experimental’ work even before taking on the red tape paperwork part of the project in a good spirit of “all locked down now”. We just rolled up our sleeves and thought about what we as engineers could do with the doctors on the front line.”
A collaboration that accelerated with the adventure of Alain Ducasse’s restaurant Allard, an institution in the heart of the Latin Quarter. Martin Mogeneyer’s team was called in to test and validate the quality of the chosen system. “Alain Ducasse quickly understood that barrier gestures and distancing would drastically reduce the number of tables available. As specialists in particle systems, we developed a system that allowed us to simulate all possible permutations. In short, to simulate all potential aerosol contamination paths from table to table by reproducing the various behaviours of people at the table. For example, there are those who are chatting quietly, others who are talking loudly or laughing out loud. Tests have shown that the air quality is optimal with regard to airborne particles and, as a side effect, allergens”, explains Martin Morgeneyer.
But the adventure began well in advance, since Alain Ducasse called on designer Patrick Jouin, designer of the Plaza Athénée restaurant room, and architect Arnaud Delloye to think about a solution that would save the restaurant’s economic model. A solution that could only emerge through intense collaboration between his team, doctors and particle specialists.
“The latter asked Professor Thomas Similowski, whom he knew well, to think about the “Covid and restaurant” issue. As a pneumologist and specialist for respiratory diseases, Thomas Similowski then asked me to support him as a prevention specialist,” explains Jérôme Robert.
Alain Ducasse’s decision to start with this restaurant, symbol of the Latin Quarter… “He could have taken a larger restaurant in a large hotel, for example, but he made this choice because there are thousands of restaurants of this size in France. His only concern being the safety of the customers, he wanted to find a solution so that they would feel really reassured and that this solution would be reproducible. We started from the premise that hand hygiene and social distancing were under control, but that air ventilation and air movements in an enclosed space could facilitate the circulation of the virus from one table to another. Sprays can be stopped mechanically. Hence the idea of screens between each table. There was still the problem of the small particles that remain in the air for a long time and can therefore circulate through mechanical ventilation or draughts. So we and the architect came up with the idea of a sort of hood, with filters similar to those in operating theatres, which would suck the air over each table. We still had to prove that it worked. That’s where Martin Morgeneyer and his team came in”, says Robert Jérôme.
A stop-Covid device that has been validated, in particular by Uteam, a UTC subsidiary and the National Institute for Research and Security. “An innovation that Alain Ducasse wants to open up so that it can be used by the greatest number of people and which could be duplicated in all places welcoming the public, for example,” concludes Martin Morgeneyer.