April 24, 2020 / 8:56 PM / a month ago

Coronavirus pandemic inspires demand for UV airplane cleaner

(Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s suggestion that ultraviolet light could be inserted into coronavirus patients was widely panned on Friday, but a California company thinks it’s a perfect solution for decontaminating airplanes.

A device called the GermFalcon, which looks like an airline food cart with wings, uses ultraviolet light to detect germs and sanitize planes, is pictured in this undated handout. Courtesy Dimer UVC Innovations GermFalcon/Handout via REUTERS

Dimer UCV Innovations created a UV-C-emitting cleaning machine called GermFalcon for the airline industry in 2014 - but it’s only with the coronavirus that demand has really taken off.

“We didn’t want it to take a pandemic to create the demand in this industry. That’s the situation we’re in and we’re building our units as quickly as we can,” said Elliot Kreitenberg, president and cofounder of Dimer UCV Innovations.

He did not give details on sales of the unit, but said use of the machine had been offered to the industry for free during the pandemic.

GermFalcon is a food cart-sized robotic tool that is pushed down the aisle of the plane. Mechanical wings expand and emit UV-C light onto cabin surfaces.

A protective barrier shields the operator from the ultraviolet light, which can be harmful.

Kreitenberg said the GermFalcon can clean a typical narrow body aircraft in three minutes.

UV-C can damage the nucleic acids within an organism and prevent it from replicating. Its use as a disinfectant is fairly common in hospital and laboratory settings, experts have said.

But elsewhere, such as in aviation, it is uncommon.

There are three types of ultraviolet light: UV-A, UV-B and UV-C, and UV-C is the most damaging. About 95 percent of the UV radiation from the sun comes in the form of UV-A.

While UV light is known to kill viruses in air-borne droplets, health professionals said it could not be introduced into the human body to target cells infected with the novel coronavirus.

Organizations like CHEO Research Institute in Canada have looked at using UV-C to disinfect personal protective equipment such as N95 masks, but not surfaces.

According to University of California Santa Barbara, Seoul Semiconductor Co Ltd has been working on UV LEDs for the purpose of decontaminating surfaces. That company reported “99.9% sterilization of coronavirus in 30 seconds.”

Reporting by Nathan Frandino; Writing by Cynthia Osterman; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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