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UCT student designs smart UVC sanitizer with multi-applications

Published May 15, 2020



A university project set up to challenge engineering students has led to the creation of an affordable, smart short-wavelength ultraviolet-C (UVC) light system that disinfects surfaces, the air and large rooms – and even face masks.

Rowyn Naidoo, a University of Cape Town student, is finalising his design created in response to the challenge set out by Professor Amit Mishrahis to design devices to help counter Covid-19.

“UVC light also works on drug-resistant superbugs, fungi and bacteria, and disinfects in a matter of seconds or minutes – depending on the dosage,” Naidoo said.

UVC light is effective in killing other viruses and micro-organisms in and on our surroundings. It does this by destroying nucleic acids and disrupting their DNA.

Naidoo said although UVC disinfection products are being sold, his one will provide automatic, optimised disinfection on a much larger scale, such as entire rooms or lecture venues.

His UVC disinfection design uses a combination of a wall- or ceiling-installed lamps and occupancy detection sensors to determine if the room is vacant. It then automatically and safely switches on the UVC lights to irradiate the air and surfaces for the required amount of time, then automatically switches off for effective, economical disinfection.

“This solution requires no operational labour, which makes it easy to use and means no one needs to touch the surfaces, so cleaning staff won’t be in danger of being exposed to surfaces contaminated by viruses by physically having to clean these with a chemical disinfectant.”

Naidoo’s system will also disinfect the air, reducing the spread of airborne illnesses such as the common cold, influenza and tuberculosis. In this way, Naidoo envisages fewer disruptions to the academic programme when students and staff get sick.

“This is especially important in confined spaces with many people, such as lecture venues.

“Practically, the lights can be used to disinfect lecture venues before and after each lecture, with similar applications to cinema theatres, classrooms, labs, toilets, etc.” he said.

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