June 09th 2020

Virus-free surfaces through novel technology

Short-wave UV-C light with LED luminaires for the disinfection of shopping trolleys | LED from Planlicht | lighting technology and sensor systems from MCI (SciLED) | hygiene tests from the Medical University of Innsbruck

SciLED is one of the lighthouse projects of the Emerging Applications Lab (EAL) at MCI. Photo: MCI
SciLED is one of the lighthouse projects of the Emerging Applications Lab (EAL) at MCI. Photo: MCI

A casual exchange of ideas about the lighting competence of Planlicht and the development competence of the MCI led to a momentous idea that came at just the right time during Corona: the power of UV light should be used to render microbes on surfaces harmless. UV-C rays are used, with which humans normally do not come into contact at all, because this particularly short-wave and high-energy radiation is absorbed by the earth's atmosphere. UV-C light has already been used to disinfect air, water and surfaces. What is new is the efficient large-scale application using LED lights from Planlicht. The entire photometric characterization as well as the control and adaptation of the sensor technology is the responsibility of MCI researchers.

The first concrete project during Corona was to provide customers with shopping carts that were as "clean" and virus-free as possible. MCI's expertise in the development of LED lighting systems for scientific applications (SciLED) was seamlessly integrated into this new project. The shopping carts are irradiated with UV-C light in a specially designed box from Berger Ecotrail. The short-wave light destroys the surface of the pathogens and kills 99 percent of viruses, bacteria, germs and fungi. Treated in this way, customers can use the practically virus-free shopping trolleys without hesitation. That this actually works is confirmed by test series at the Medical University of Innsbruck (Institute for Hygiene and Medical Microbiology). HIV and noroviruses have already been tested, and tests with influenza viruses and SARS-CoV 2 (COVID-19) are currently underway. The laboratory prototype on which the tests are carried out was developed and built at MCI. Based on the positive results so far, the microbiologists expect very good results here as well.

"In our Emerging Applications Lab, we have been working on LED systems for scientific applications for some time. We knew that UV-C light has great potential for destroying corona viruses, which is why the technology could be implemented in a very short time," emphasizes Ronald Stärz, head of the Emerging Applications Lab (EAL). "Entirely in keeping with the spirit of the MCI as an Entrepreneurial School®, we are very pleased to be able to work with our partners to develop solutions that can be used directly in companies, not only in times of economic boom but also in times of crisis. As always, innovations are a flight to the future - this courage is especially needed in challenging times," explains Michael Kraxner, Head of R & D at MCI.

Harald Schöbel from the MCI research team praises the interdisciplinary cooperation of the project partners: "This is a very complex project. Electrical engineering, lighting technology and microbiology are working closely together, all partners are from Tyrol, and together we are creating new solutions that will be used far beyond our region".

Further ideas are already in the pipeline: the technology could also be used to disinfect keyboards, mobile phones, conveyor belts and much more.

SciLED by MCI:

SciLED is one of the lighthouse projects of the Emerging Applications Lab (EAL) at MCI, which was set up with the support of Infineon. Within the SciLED project, individual lighting and irradiation solutions based on LED technology are realized for scientific applications. Based on a modular design, tailor-made systems can be developed for laboratory use. This includes both the photometric properties (wavelength, intensity, dose) and the mechanical implementation in existing experimental equipment. Numerous lighting systems for biotechnological, pharmacological and medical applications have already been realized.

The aim of SciLED is to develop LED applications for the life science sector that meet scientific requirements. This should close the gap to the commercial LED systems already available.