23 October 2020
NS Nanotech’s new chip emits far-UVC light to neutralize coronavirus
NS Nanotech of Ann Arbor, MI, USA claims that it has produced the first solid-state emissive material to produce shortwave far-UVC ultraviolet light that researchers say can deactivate the SARS-CoV-2 virus and other airborne pathogens. Initial samples of the chip will be available to OEM partners before the end of 2020.
A startup with patented technology developed at the University of Michigan and McGill University, the company says that it is also fast-tracking development of a personal air purifier for business and consumers that utilizes its new chip. Designed to neutralize coronavirus in the user’s personal airspace, the portable product will be about the size of a coffee mug and will be available in 2021. It will be for personal and business use in the home, office, schools, airplanes, ride-shares and virtually anywhere you can plug it in, says the firm.
“Our coronavirus-neutralizing chip breaks barriers in semiconductor fabrication that previously prevented delivery of solid-state far-UVC light,” claims CEO & co-founder Seth Coe-Sullivan. “With a far smaller form factor and lower potential costs than any other available shortwave ultraviolet light source, it is perfectly suited for many applications with the potential to safely deactivate airborne coronavirus and other pathogens,” he adds.
Far-UVC for SARS-CoV-2 intervention
NS Nanotech claims that its new nitride semiconductor chips are the first solid-state devices to emit far-UVC light at wavelengths ranging from 200-222nm. Third-party research has shown that light emitted in this wavelength range can neutralize more than 99.9% of airborne coronaviruses in its path, with less potential to harm human skin or eyes than longer-wavelength UVC light.
Independent studies at Columbia University and Kobe University have shown that shortwave far-UVC photons, at 222nm or less, can deactivate coronavirus without penetrating or damaging live human cells, making far-UVC sanitizing light safer for humans, with the potential for use in a wide range of products (including personal consumer devices).
The current generation of lamps that emit longer UVC ultraviolet waves of up to 280nm have been used for decades to sanitize air and surfaces in hospitals and other large facilities. But their use has been limited because UVC light has the potential to cause skin cancer, cataracts or other ailments in humans. They are most often used only in enclosed HVAC air filters, with robots, or other environments where the harmful longer-wavelength light won’t come into contact with people.
Solid-state design enables thousands of applications
Several UVC lighting suppliers recently introduced far-UVC 222nm lamps. But their products are based on an earlier generation of technology requiring the use of excimer bulbs that are large, fragile, expensive, too hot to touch, and require filters to block the longer UVC wavelengths that add substantial cost to the lamps, notes NS Nanotech.
The firm claims that, in contrast, the solid-state semiconductor emitter design of its new chips eliminates those problems:
- Because they have the smallest form factor available for any far-UVC germicidal light — each chip is less than 1.5-inches square — they can be designed into everything from wearable devices to classroom whiteboards to office furniture, enabling a wide range of potential consumer and business applications to neutralize coronavirus and future pathogens.
- Because of their solid-state design, they run cool.
- Also, they use power efficiently, which can enable portable, battery-powered operation.
The firm says that prototypes of the new chips will be available for potential partners to evaluate in fourth-quarter 2020, with a fast ramp to volume production in 2021.
Tabletop air purifier to be first line of defense
NS Nanotech says it is also designing a portable personal air purifier that will be the first consumer application for its far-UVC chip. To be available in 2021, the pyramid-shaped tabletop device will be for business and consumer use at home, work, school, at receptionists’ desks, retail check-outs, on airline tray tables, etc.
“We are providing a new first line of defense against airborne pathogens,” says Coe-Sullivan. “Far-UVC light can deactivate a virus before it reaches you,” he adds. “Your face mask, which only traps the virus before you breathe it in, will be your second line of defense. Vaccines, if and when they become available, will be a third line of defense that neutralizes the virus only after you have become infected.”