We want to integrate a light-disinfection application into our off-grid solar generators to provide a sustainable, reliable and inclusive hygiene solution for public spaces and people in need.
Background & Inspiration
This idea originated from SunCrafter, a berlin solar start-up producing grid-independent solar systems for immediate energy access/electrification in rural communities and urban environments. Our generators are upcycled from decommissioned solar panels. They power any application with 200W and are in use as charging stations for mobile devices and electric vehicles, WiFi-Hotspots, illumination, environmental data measurements. In this crisis, the integration of a light-disinfection function is the next logical step. Therefore, we are connecting with experts from the medical and optronic fields to develop the first grid-independent prototype.
To achieve complete protection for every human, a hygiene solution has to be inclusive for everyone and accessible wherever needed. Far-UVC-Light is proven to be a safe and efficient disinfection method, which can be used barrier-free solely by bathing your hands. When powered with off-grid solar energy, this hygiene solution is self-sufficient and location independent. This makes it flexible in use and extremely scalable as well as fulfilling the social factor of leaving no-one behind. Another important factor: This solution doesn't produce waste and is fully sustainable since it's powered by renewables from circular resources.
How far-UVC works
"Airborne-mediated microbial diseases such as SARS-CoV-2 represent a major public health challenge. A direct approach to prevent airborne transmission is inactivation of airborne pathogens, and the airborne antimicrobial potential of UVC ultraviolet light has long been established; however, its widespread use in public settings is limited because conventional UVC light sources are both carcinogenic and cataractogenic. By contrast, we have previously shown that far-UVC light (207–222 nm) efficiently inactivates bacteria without harm to exposed mammalian skin. This is because, due to its strong absorbance in biological materials, far-UVC light cannot penetrate even the outer (non living) layers of human skin or eye; however, because bacteria and viruses are of micrometer or smaller dimensions, far-UVC can penetrate and inactivate them. We show for the first time that far-UVC efficiently inactivates airborne aerosolized viruses, with a very low dose of 2 mJ/cm2 of 222-nm light inactivating >95% of aerosolized H1N1 influenza virus. Continuous very low dose-rate far-UVC light in indoor public locations is a promising, safe and inexpensive tool to reduce the spread of airborne-mediated microbial diseases."
Scientific Reports volume 8, Article number: 2752 (2018): David Welch, Manuela Buonanno, Veljko Grill, Igor Shuryak, Connor Crickmore, Alan W. Bigelow, Gerhard Randers-Pehrson, Gary W. Johnson & David J. Brenner https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-21058-w
Explanation-Video (from Ushio): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZn4-6Fh60k&feature=emb_title
How does it look like
A far-UVC lamp is installed onto the case of the solar generator and gets connected to the system. The light of the device will be at a height where hands, as well as mobile devices, can be fully covered by the light in a timeframe of 20 seconds.
We also want to attach a display with the possibility to have a countdown for the recommended timeframe of cleaning, and also to provide education, product information, share hygiene advice, to display environmental data like air quality, or to simply entertain the user, during the cleaning process.
The System can be used in any off-grid area. It's wind-resistant and weather-independent, can be attached with additional battery storage for night time use and run for decades. We see high-urgency use-cases in areas with little-to-no hygiene standards, and for people who don't have access to hygiene solutions like homeless and refugees. There is also a lot of potential for urban places such as supermarkets, public places, and public transportation.
Challenges I ran into
It took some research to find a supplier for far-UVC lighting since the technology is very new. Further, you have to watch out carefully because there are a lot of UVC-light products on the market, which harm skin and eye (wrong wavelength) or don't seem reliable. After identification of a fitting supplier, we were not able to get in contact so far (easter holiday), but their product fulfills all requirements and is customizable, so it could be easily attached.
Lamp & Supplier: https://www.ushio.com/product/care222-mercury-free-far-uv-c-excimer/
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
The first accomplishment was the great team we brought together. From solar technicians (SunCrafter GmbH) to experts from the medical field (Dr. Markus Heep) to UX-Designers and a cinematographer. Together we managed to build the light-disinfection application from scratch, which works with two of our systems. We are impressed by the outcome of this Hackathon and very happy to see that our project already generated interest from potential clients and cooperation partners.
Foundation: Who: Siemens Stiftung, Senior Science Advisor Why: For projects they support in Ada Island Communities (Prediatorkope and Tuanikope), small rural community of Ghana
Industry (Cooperation): Who: ABB, Market Innovation Manager Why: Potential synergies in bringing this product to the people and places that need it most
Industry (Customer): Who: Hydrograv AKP, Executive Director Why: For their employees, especially on their wastewater plants
Movieproduction: Who: Rat Pack Filmproduktion GmbH, Line Producer Polyphon Film- und Fernsehgesellschaft mbH, CFO Why: Flexibility and mobility of the station for the frequent set change
Event/Venue/Gastronomy: Who: Zooba vom Zoopalast Berlin, Manager / O MATO Gmbh Why: Want to improve the safety during events as well as using it as part of the security concept
Refugee Support: Who: Cafe Mondial Konstanz e.V., Managing Director Why: Reopening their organization to be able to offer their essential service for people in need
Pending: Siemens AG, Impact Hub Accra (Ghana), Firlefanz GmbH, Feel und Artlake Festival, Catholic Community - Freiburg Nord
Open Interest: GIZ, Deutschland
What I learned
This was the first hackathon for everyone in the team. It was great to get to know this format and see, how fast results can be delivered. Also, we have been extremely stuck with product and business development during this crisis. This taught us to never stop believing in the potential and to think outside the box.
As our go-to-market strategy, we want to run pilots in different places to validate the use-case and improve on the User-Experience. Therefore, we modify our existing products on Siemens-Campus Berlin, Euref-Campus Berlin and Impact Hub Ghana in Africa. Any required validation of our disinfection device will be pursued in correspondence with medical technology experts and infectious disease experts. Further, we are going to team up with well-known companies for a higher reach and reputation (see list of LOIs/EOIs).
We also want to reach out to governments and municipalities as soon as possible since the public sector is usually relatively slow. Through our connection with Siemens (SunCrafter is sitting on their campus and is constantly in exchange), we want to expand our production facility and improve on the manufacturing process.