The benefits of ultraviolet as a disinfectant are well established. UV germicidal lamps have been used in care homes, hospitals, clinics, laboratories and other settings that require exacting hygiene standards for many years. Ultraviolet has been used as a tool for disinfection for almost a century particularly in the treatment of waste and drinking water. With the global spread of COVID-19, there’s a renewed focus on the role that UVC, in particular, can play in the fight back against the pandemic. With chemical disinfectant being laborious to apply and potentially toxic to humans and the environment, alternative approaches are being applied.
What is UVC?
Ultraviolet light can be divided into four categories. The most useful when it comes to disinfecting is UVC. This has a range of 200-280nm and has been proven to stop viruses, bacteria and micro-organisms replicating and spreading.
How does it work?
The UVC is absorbed by the DNA and RNA bases of a virus. This causes a photo-chemical reaction that prevents the bases from pairing together and replicating further. A study of the SARS coronavirus that emerged in 2002 discovered that exposure to UVC completely inactivated the virus [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17002634]. As coronaviruses are very similar in the way they replicate and spread, we can be quite confident that COVID-19 will respond in the same way to treatment with UVC.
UVC technologies are being adopted worldwide
The emergence of the new coronavirus has sped up the adoption of developing UVC technologies in hospital settings, particularly in places that have been badly hit by the virus such as China and Italy. This is likely to continue even after the current emergency is over. Manufacturers of UVC equipment are increasing production to meet the growing demand.
Autonomous UVC robots are already on the front line
Autonomous robots equipped with UVC lamps are already working in hospitals across the world. A bank of lamps is mounted on a mobile unit which is driven around the area you wish to regularly disinfect. The robot uses sensors to scan and map the area. Details of where the robot should disinfect are then added to the map. The robot is then able to carry out a thorough UVC treatment by itself, returning to its charger point when it has completed its assigned task. It maps and records its progress providing valuable data for clinical and non-clinical staff. This saves time and manpower in the fight against the virus, freeing up front line staff to work in other roles.
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