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MSE researchers developing mobile device that destroys viruses and bacteria on surfaces


April 28, 2020

Mengyu Yan and Mitchell Kaiser

Mengyu Yan and Mitchell Kaiser

photo of web platform

Jun Liu

photo of web platform

Jihui Yang

MSE researchers are developing a mobile “flashlight-like” device that disinfects common surfaces using ultraviolet (UV) light and infrared (IR) light. CoMotion, UW’s collaborative innovation hub, recently filed a provisional patent on behalf of the team which is led by MSE professors Jun Liu and Jihui Yang with postdoc Mengyu Yan (MSE) and graduate student Mitchell Kaiser (MSE/chemistry).

In response to the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), the team is working to create solutions to minimize the spread of the disease, provide critical aid to health care workers and their patients, and ensure the safety, health and well-being of households.

The new mobile device can effectively and rapidly destroy viruses and bacteria on surfaces. The research team says, “Many surfaces are not suitable or accessible for chemical disinfection such as clothes, sofas, papers, porous materials, fabrics, food containers, and food. However, UV light is an effective disinfecting method, and UV lamps are commercially available.”

The team’s idea is to take advantage of the synergistic effect of chemical and physical treatment. They are developing a device that combines multiple electromagnetic sources to more effectively kill microbes than one particular radiation source could achieve alone.

The device can be used for almost any surface, including food and food packaging, fabrics, computers and cell phones, elevators, door handles and knobs, mail and mail packaging, and in settings including automobiles, buses, airplanes, buildings, hospitals, gyms and sports complexes, and conference centers.

This innovation is part of the team’s larger effort to use powerful Li-ion batteries to enable new energy storage and advanced mobile health care technologies. For example, this particular antivirus device can also be designed for different applications, such as hand-held devices for daily household use, and backpack or suitcase devices for large-area disinfections in public spaces.

The team plans to collaborate with industry to manufacture these devices. Their next steps are to validate effectiveness and launch a startup for rapidly moving to commercialization.