05/17/2015 08:31 EDT | Updated 05/17/2016 05:59 EDT

Vancouver teen scientist wins top prize for device that reduces spread of pathogens in airplanes

A device that curbs disease transmissions on airplanes and an inexpensive test to combat high rates of HIV infections engineered by two Vancouver teen scientists have won a prestigious international prize for science innovation.

Raymond Wang, 17, and Nicole Sabina Ticea, 16, both of Vancouver, received two of the top three prizes at the 2015 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, beating more than 1,700 of the world's most promising young scientists. 

Ticea developed a low-cost, easy-to-use testing device to diagnose HIV inventions in low-income areas using a disposable, self-contained, electricity-free microfluidics cartridge that costs less than $5 to produce.

Low-cost HIV testing kit

It requires only a small drop of blood to obtain a readout. She received one of two $50,000 scholarship funds for her innovation. 

The other $50,000 prize winner was Karan Jerath, 18, of Texas who won for his dev ice that could allow an undersea oil well to rapidly and safely recover in the vent of a blowout. 

The top award was won by Wang who received $75,000 for his research on curbing disease transimission in an aircraft cabin by adjusting airflow after he was inspired by seeing news coverage about recent Ebola outbreaks.

A statistic he read found that one person infected with H1N1 could infect 17 other passengers on a 737 plane. 

Improving air flow airplane cabins

So Wang created 32 computerized simulations to track the movement of pathogens in the airflow of a Boeing 737 cabin.

He identified a way to alter airflow to improve the availability of fresh air by more than 190 percent, while reducing pathogen concentrations by up to 55 times, compared to conventional designs.

"Everyone is getting much fresh air, up 190 per cent improved in fresh air inhalation," Wang said Sunday. 

The device, which has a patent pending on it, would create virtual walls of fresh air. Contaminated air is shuffled out through a side board..

He hopes that eventually the device could save countless lives and trillions of dollars in the event of a future pandemic.

Wang plans to use the money to further his research and his university education.

The world's largest pre-college science competition was held in Pittsburgh this year and the top candidates made it to that round after beating out more than 7 million high school students from around the world who competed at local, regional and national science competitions.