Home Science 'Digital sanitiser' using UV light kills coronavirus, scientists claim 

'Digital sanitiser' using UV light kills coronavirus, scientists claim 

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Scientists have created a ‘digital sanitiser’ which uses a device attached to smartphone’s torch to kill bacteria and viruses, including the coronavirus. 

The UVLEN device, from the South Korean company of the same name, uses ultraviolet light to rid surfaces of bugs in 10 seconds.

The portable and lightweight device, which is due to launch ‘soon’ and will cost $25 (£19), sticks over the torch light on the back of a smartphone. 

It uses ‘ultraviolet germicidal irradiation’ (UVGI) – a disinfection method that uses a specific type of short-wavelength ultraviolet (far UVC) light – to kill microorganisms.

A thin light diffraction filter converts light from the smartphone torch into far UVC while reflecting other rays of light in the electromagnetic spectrum. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says UV radiation can cause skin and eye damage, while conventional UVC light sources are carcinogenic. 

However, far UVC light, with a wavelength between 207 to 222 nanometers, inactivates microbes without causing harm to exposed skin. 

Scientists have created a digital sanitiser which uses a smartphone's torch to clean hands. The UVLEN uses a hi-tech ultraviolet light to rid surfaces of bacteria and germs in 10 seconds

Scientists have created a digital sanitiser which uses a smartphone’s torch to clean hands. The UVLEN uses a hi-tech ultraviolet light to rid surfaces of bacteria and germs in 10 seconds

By simply sticking UVLEN over the smartphone torch, which comes with a strip of adhesive, and pointing the phone at the target, the technology claims to kill pathogens with nearly 100 per cent efficiency. 

‘UVLEN has been clinically tested and certified to be safe for humans in a variety of daily scenarios and can sanitise hands 50 times per day,’ it says. 

‘It is the tiniest sanitiser to be compatible with all mobile smartphone devices at a lower cost.

‘It can clean without producing odours or irritating smells, it’s portable and lightweight as well.’ 

The device's creators say the portable and lightweight product can even protect against Covid-19. The £20 product can work with any smartphone and all users have to do is attach it to their phone's torch

The device’s creators say the portable and lightweight product can even protect against Covid-19. The £20 product can work with any smartphone and all users have to do is attach it to their phone’s torch

By simply pointing it at your hands, sanitising results can occur in less than 10 seconds, according to the company

By simply pointing it at your hands, sanitising results can occur in less than 10 seconds, according to the company

What is the difference between UVC and far-UVC light?

Ultraviolet C (UVC) is a subtype of ultraviolet light, separated from UVA and UVB based on its wavelength.

It is short-wave, germicidal, meaning it inhibits microorganisms, and is completely absorbed by the ozone layer and atmosphere.

Conventional UVC light sources are both carcinogenic and cataractogenic, however. 

By contrast, far-UVC light (207–222 nm) efficiently inactivates bacteria without harm to exposed mammalian skin.

Far UVC is simply a short wavelength part of the ultraviolet spectrum. 

The device is capable of cleaning all surfaces, including hands, face masks on the go and computer keyboards and other surfaces in the home. 

The certified and clinically tested device is even safe to use on pets, it claims. 

Because the key component of the device can slide in and out like a patio door, smartphone users can keep UVLEN attached to their phone when they want to use their torch normally. 

The devices needs to be paired with the accompanying UVLEN app, which acts as a control panel for the user. 

It also delivers the necessary amount of far-UVC wavelength without damaging skin cells, subsequently killing bacteria and viruses. 

‘UVLEN is safe to use but should always be used alongside the mobile app,’ said a company spokesperson.   

‘The app arranges and manages the correct amount of wavelengths that need to be sent without causing harm.’

The app delivers lifespan information and device performance data via notifications, as well as providing a timer that counts down the recommended 10-second sanitising time.  

The thin film is made of fused silica, which has high resistance to melting temperatures and thermal shock. 

UVLEN has a six-month lifespan before the strip of film is burnt up by far UVC and customers have to re-order via the app.  

UVLEN's mobile app handles delivers the necessary amount of far-UVC wavelength without damaging skin cells, subsequently killing bacteria and viruses

UVLEN’s mobile app handles delivers the necessary amount of far-UVC wavelength without damaging skin cells, subsequently killing bacteria and viruses

UVLEN’s technology is based on the UV disinfection robots made by Texas-based company Xenex for industrial and medical settings. 

These UV disinfection machines have already been used to deactivate SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, in hospitals. 

Now, the South Korean company is using similar technology but shrinking it down to a cheaper and more accessible scale for the every-day consumer.

The device is said to be available ‘soon’ at an affordable price in the UK, although the company is yet to respond to MailOnline’s request for a firm launch date. 

UVLEN is safe to use on any surface such hands or pets and is certified and clinically tested

UVLEN is safe to use on any surface such hands or pets and is certified and clinically tested

The potential of far UVC has previously been advocated by the scientific community for its ability to kill pathogens without harming humans.  

‘Far-UVC light has a very limited range and cannot penetrate through the outer dead-cell layer of human skin or the tear layer in the eye, so it’s not a human health hazard,’ Professor David J. Brenner, Director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University, previously explained. 

‘But because viruses and bacteria are much smaller than human cells, far-UVC light can reach their DNA and kill them.’ 

The filter itself slides back into place when its not being used, meaning the device doesn’t have to be physically removed from the phone 

Dr Brenner has previously given a TED talk on the potential of Far UVC and co-authored a 2018 research paper in Nature, describing it as a ‘new tool’ to control the spread of airborne-mediated microbial diseases over antibiotic drugs. 

Superbugs – strains of bacteria, viruses and fungi that are resistant to most antibiotics – are expected to be responsible for 10 million deaths per year by 2050, he said. 

But by applying a physical rather than a biological approach, scientists could overcome this so-called ‘antimicrobial resistance and avoid catastrophic death counts in the near future. 

Antimicrobial resistance: a primer 

Antibiotics have been doled out unnecessarily by GPs and hospital staff for decades, fueling once harmless bacteria to become superbugs. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has previously warned if nothing is done the world is heading for a ‘post-antibiotic’ era.

It claimed common infections, such as chlamydia, will become killers without immediate solutions to the growing crisis.

Bacteria can become drug resistant when people take incorrect doses of antibiotics or if they are given out unnecessarily. 

Former chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies claimed in 2016 that the threat of antibiotic resistance is as severe as terrorism.

Figures estimate that superbugs will kill 10 million people each year by 2050, with patients succumbing to once harmless bugs.

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