US president Donald Trump raised a few eyebrows when he suggested at a press conference this week that it might be possible to shine a powerful light inside the body to kill the coronavirus Covid-19.
That is neither possible nor desirable, but one Antwerp company is very close to developing UVC lights which can disinfect empty spaces, killing the bacteria and viruses present.
AED Group, based in Lint in Antwerp province, is a specialist in events, and as such supplies lighting for shows, TV studios and the like. However since March the events sector has been closed down because of the coronavirus, which led CEO and founder Glenn Roggeman to turn the company’s attention to alternatives.
The first idea was to turn the company’s impressive battery of media servers over to medical researchers all over the world to boost their computer power in searching for a way to defeat the virus.
Then, the company’s lighting subsidiary Luxibel decided to experiment with the disinfectant properties of UVC light.
Ultraviolet or UV light comes in three varieties. UVA causes changes to skin pigmentation and is sought after by holidaymakers. UVB alters the DNA of the skin and is the component of sunlight that can lead to skin cancer.
UVC light is more dangerous still. UVC affects the DNA and RNA of all organisms, including micro-organisms, and can be deadly.
UVC cannot be used on the human body to combat a virus, as it would kill the host as well. It can, on the other hand, be used to clean empty spaces, and is in common use for operating rooms, water supplies and passenger aircraft.
“When in mid-March the decision was taken to cancel all events, we went in one fell swoop from 60,000 planned events to zero,” Roggeman told De Tijd.
“But then we quickly started thinking about how we could get our bearings, and maybe use our expertise to make a contribution. And one of our specialist areas is light.”
Now Luxibel has developed four products which use UVC. Two are direct UVC lamps, one is a hybrid of direct and indirect light – all three have to be used in empty spaces. The fourth is an air-purification unit which uses UVC internally but, since the rays are not allowed to escape the unit, can be used where people are present, for example to provide clean air to public spaces.
According to Roggeman, it would take only 24 of the air filter units to clean the air inside the Sportpaleis in Antwerp, which has a capacity of more than 23,000 spectators.
The units will be available for sale or for hire in May.