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Handheld Ultraviolet Lights Could Help Kill Coronavirus, Say Penn State Researchers

Two commonly used methods to sanitize and disinfect surfaces from bacteria and viruses include the use of chemicals or exposing an area to ultraviolet radiation. However, according to researchers at Penn State, the University of Minnesota, and two Japanese universities, a personal, handheld device that emits high-intensity ultraviolet rays may be able to kill the coronavirus.

UV radiation within the 200 to 300-nanometer range prevents the virus from reproducing and infecting others. The use of UV light has been widely sought after throughout the coronavirus pandemic, but using UV rays to kill the virus requires high doses of UV light. Although devices with high UV light doses exist, they are expensive and have a short life span.

“You have to ensure a sufficient UV light dose to kill all the viruses,” Roman Engel-Herbert, Penn State associate professor of Materials Science, Physics and Chemistry said. “This means you need a high-performance UV LED emitting a high intensity of UV light, which is currently limited by the transparent electrode material being used.”

While a portable, long-lasting, energy-efficient device is more optimal, applying a current for light emission is complicated because the electrode material has to be transparent to UV light, which is difficult to make happen.

“There is currently no good solution for a UV-transparent electrode,” Joseph Roth, a doctoral candidate in Materials Science and Engineering at Penn State, said. “Right now, the current material solution commonly employed for visible light application is used despite it being too absorbing in the UV range. There is simply no good material choice for a UV-transparent conductor material that has been identified.”

The team of researchers has taken a huge step in finding new material that is compatible with UV light for a low cost and high quantity — making it possible to disinfect areas in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus in densely populated areas.

You can read more about their research, including the full publication, here.

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About the Author

Mackenzie Cullen

Sadly, Mackenzie graduated from Penn State in 2022. She majored in English and served as one of Onward State's associate editors. You can keep up with her life and send compliments to @MackenzieC__ on Twitter.

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