Startup chip emits safe UVC light to fight COVID-19

Startup NS Nanotech is incorporating its far UVC light emitting chip into a tabletop device that is designed to neutralize COVID-19. (NS Nanotech)

 

A Michigan startup is developing a consumer-grade UV air neutralizer the size of a coffee mug. It will sell for $199 in 2021.

The pyramid-shaped tabletop device relies on what NS Nanotech calls the world’s first solid-state semiconductor that emits short-wavelength far-UVC ultraviolet light to neutralize COVID-19 in a person’s airspace.

The chip and device came out of patented technology developed over 10 years at the University of Michigan and McGill University.

Because the chip is smaller (at 1.5-inch square) and cheaper than other shortwave UV light sources, it can be used in the tabletop device.  The chips are nitride semiconductors that emit far-UVC light at the 200 to 222 nanometer wavelength, which can neutralize more than 99.9% of airborne coronaviruses in their way.

  At that wavelength, there is less harm to human skin or eyes than longer wavelength UVC, the company said, relying on studies at Columbia University and Kobe University. UVC light at 280 nanometers has been linked to skin cancer and cataracts and is often used in enclosed HVAC air filters or locations where there’s no human contact.

A number of far-UVC nanometer lamps have been deployed with robots and other methods to fight COVID-19 in recent months, but NS Nanotech said many rely on earlier generations of excimer bulbs that are large and expensive and hot to touch.  NS Nanotech chips run cool because of their solid-state design.

NS Nanotech hasn’t specified the effective range of the far UVC light that will be emitted from the tabletop device, although CEO and co-founder Seth Coe-Sullivan called the device a “first line of defense”  against COVID-19 and other airborne pathogens.

NS Nanoteh UVC light device

 “Far-UVC light can deactivate a virus before it reaches you,” he added. “Your face mask, which only traps the virus before you breathe it in, will be your second line of defense.  Vaccines…will be a third line of defense that neutralizes the virus only after you have become infected.” 

Coe-Sullivan previously co-founded QD Vision, a quantum-dot display company sold to Samsung. NS Nanotech co-founder Zetian Mi is a profession at U of M, while co-founder Rick Bolander is managing partner at E-Lab Ventures.

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