Ann Arbor’s NS Nanotech has created a solid-state emissive material that produces invisible shortwave far-UVC ultraviolet light that researchers say can deactivate the COVID-19 virus and other airborne pathogens. Initial samples of the chip are expected to be available to OEM partners this year.
A startup with technology developed at the University of Michigan and McGill University over the course of 10 years, the company said it is fast-tracking development of a personal air purifiers for business and consumers that uses the new chip. The pyramid-shaped product will be about the size of a coffee mug and will be available next year. It can be used anywhere it can be plugged in, including rideshares and airplanes.
“Our coronavirus-neutralizing chip breaks barriers in semiconductor fabrication that previously prevented delivery of solid-state far-UVC light,” says Seth Coe-Sullivan, CEO and co-founder of the company. “With a far smaller form factor and lower potential costs than any other available shortwave ultraviolet light source, it is perfectly suited for many applications with the potential to safely deactivate airborne coronavirus and other pathogens.”
The creators say the nitride semiconductor chips are the first solid-state devices to emit far-UVC light at wavelengths ranging from 200-222 nanometers. Third-party research completed at Columbia University and Kobe University has shown that the invisible light emitted in this wavelength can neutralize more than 99.9 percent of airborne coronaviruses in their path with less potential to harm human skin or eyes than longer-wavelength UVC light.
Lamps that emit longer UVC waves of up to 280 nanometers have been used for decades to sanitize air and surfaces in hospitals and other facilities. Their use is limited however, because UVC light can cause skin cancer, cataracts, and other health problems in humans. They are most often used in enclosed HVAC air filters, with robots, or in other environments where the wavelengths won’t come into contact with people.
Each chip from NS Nanotech is 1.5 square inches, allowing them to be integrated into many products. Their solid-state design allows them to run without heating up, and they use power efficiently, enabling portable, battery-powered operation.
Prototypes are expected to be available for potential partners to evaluate in the fourth quarter with a fast ramp to volume production in 2021.