Ultraviolet light instrumental in battle against viruses and bacteria
Light has been instrumental in the history of creation and may now be used to tackle viruses and bacteria effectively - especially the coronavirus. "But it's not just about SARS-CoV2," according to Daniel Ehlers, Managing Director of the Hamburg-based start-up Uventions. Founded in 2019, the company specializes in disinfecting rooms with light. "Every year, 600,000 in-patients acquire nosocomial infections and around 15,000 to 20,000 patients die from them in Germany." At the same time, more and more disinfectants are proving ineeffective against the pathogens, said Ehlers. "However, ultraviolet light is effective and we can eliminate almost all infectious agents." Naturally, his motto is: "Let there be light."
Optical sensors and algorithms
Using UV light as a disinfectant continues a tried and tested process begun many years ago in wide-ranging sectors. "We shoot photons at the agents in a DNA chain and prevent the reproduction of viruses and bacteria," said Ehlers. As UV light can damage human skin and eyes, the start-up has developed a singular procedure that ensures that neither humans nor animals are present during disinfection. "Optical sensors map the room three-dimensionally and creates point clouds that are processed by algorithms. The system detects any person or animal in a room, even if they are motionless or lying down," Ehlers pointed out.
Use in elevators, offices, hotels or hospitals
The UVPanel resembles a picture or poster on a wall or ceiling and can be used anywhere - in offices, hospitals, hotels or large restaurants. Elevators are the first testing scenario. Practical tests will start shortly after Uventions reached an agreement with ThyssenKrupp Aufzüge GmbH on several hundred panels. “Elevators offer a limited, clearly recognizable space and are perfect for opening up other areas of use," said Ehlers.
Another product called the UVBase has also passed practical tests. The UVBase is similar to a drawer system and disinfects mobile telephones, keyboards, computer mice, spectacles or tools in minutes. "We developed the UVBase in co-operation with a north German university hospital successfully and the effectiveness of the disinfection was confirmed by an independent laboratory," said Ehlers. Plans are now being laid for self-disinfecting handrails and door handles.
Uventions' disinfecting UV light has sparked interest far beyond north Germany. Thanks to the Life Science North network, Uventions was able to present its product to a delegation from the United Arab Emirates that visited Hamburg in September. "Those talks and a visit by Michael Westhagemann, Senator for Economics and Innovation, in August gave us the attention that we needed then and just before our next financing round," Ehlers said. Five investors have come on board since the initial financing round in June. The start-up now hopes to secure more capital. "The pandemic is not making it easier for start-ups to attract investors," said Ehlers. On the other hand, interest in intelligent hygiene solutions is very strong at present. "But with the right investors by our side, I believe we will emerge stronger from this crisis."