NS Nanotech announced today that it has broken major barriers in semiconductor device design with the first solid-state emissive material to produce invisible shortwave far-UVC ultraviolet light that researchers say can deactivate the SARS-CoV-2 virus and other airborne pathogens. Initial samples of the chip will be available to OEM partners before the end of the year.
A startup with patented technology developed at the University of Michigan and McGill University, the company said it is also fast-tracking development of a personal air purifier for business and consumers that utilizes its new chip. The portable product, designed to neutralize coronavirus in the user’s personal airspace, will be about the size of a coffee mug and will be available in 2021. It will be for personal and business use in the home, office, schools, airplanes, ride-shares, and virtually anywhere else you can plug it in.
“Our coronavirus-neutralizing chip breaks barriers in semiconductor fabrication that previously prevented delivery of solid-state far-UVC light,” said NS Nanotech CEO and Co-founder Seth Coe-Sullivan. “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.”
Far-UVC: A New SARS-CoV-2 Intervention
NS Nanotech’s new nitride semiconductor chips are the first solid-state devices to emit far-UVC light at wavelengths ranging from 200-to-222 nanometers. Third-party research has shown that the invisible disinfecting light emitted in this wavelength range can neutralize more than 99.9% of airborne coronaviruses in their path, with less potential to harmhuman skin or eyes than longer-wavelength UVC light.
Independent studies at Columbia University and Kobe University have shown that shortwave far-UVC photons, at 222 nanometers or less, can deactivate coronavirus without penetrating or damaging live human cells, making far-UVC sanitizing light safer for humans with the potential for use in a wide range of products, including personal consumer devices.
The current generation of lamps that emit longer UVC ultraviolet waves of up to 280 nanometers have been used for decades to sanitize air and surfaces in hospitals and other large facilities. But their use cases are limited because UVC light has the potential to cause skin cancer, cataracts or other ailments in humans. They are most often used only in enclosed HVAC air filters, with robots, or other environments where the harmful longer-wavelength light won’t come into contact with people.
Solid-State Design Enables Thousands of Applications
Several UVC lighting suppliers recently introduced far-UVC 222-nanometer lamps. But their products are based on an earlier generation of technology requiring the use of excimer bulbs that are large, fragile, expensive, too hot to touch, and require filters to block the longer UVC wavelengths that add substantial cost to the lamps.
The solid-state semiconductor emitter design of the new NS Nanotech chips, on the other hand, eliminates those problems:
- Because they have the smallest form factor available for any far-UVC germicidal light—each chip is less than 1.5-inches square—they can be designed into everything from wearable devices to classroom whiteboards to office furniture, enabling a wide range of potential consumer and business applications to neutralize coronavirus and future pathogens.
- Because of their solid-state design, they run cool.
- And they use power efficiently, which will enable portable, battery-powered operation.
The company said prototypes of the new chips will be available for potential partners to evaluate in the fourth quarter of 2020, with a fast ramp to volume production in 2021.
Tabletop Air Purifier Will Be a First Line of Defense
NS Nanotech said it is also designing a portable personal air purifier that will be the first consumer application for its far-UVC chip. The pyramid-shaped tabletop device, which will be available in 2021, will be for business and consumer use at home, work, school, at receptionists’ desks, retail check-out, on your airline tray table, and many other possible locations.
“Our tabletop air purifier will finally empower consumers to stop playing defense and start playing offense with a potent new weapon of far-UVC light,” said Coe-Sullivan.
“We are providing a new first line of defense against airborne pathogens,” he said. “Far-UVC light can deactivate a virus before it reaches you. Your face mask, which only traps the virus before you breathe it in, will be your second line of defense. Vaccines, if and when they become available, will be a third line of defense that neutralizes the virus only after you have become infected.”
NS Nanotech’s nitride semiconductor technology draws on a decade of work on patented inventions by researchers at McGill University and the University of Michigan that dramatically improve the fabrication process and resulting efficiency of nano-scale light-emitting materials. CEO and Co-Founder Seth Coe-Sullivan previously co-founded QD Vision, a quantum-dot display company sold to Samsung. And Co-Founder Rick Bolander, managing partner at E-Lab Ventures, has a successful track record launching start-ups in the semiconductor industry.