A fledgling German startup is busy with orders from around the world to produce antibacterial elevators and antibacterial sprays.
Tanja Nickel and Katharina Obladen were still in high school when they applied for a patent for the idea of sterilizing the elevator handle with UV light.
A decade later, UVIS, their fledgling startup, is receiving countless orders from around the world for antibacterial elevators and antimicrobial protective layers for supermarket carts and buttons. elevator.
From winning the school competition
Everyone wants to do it, “Obladen, 28, told AFP at the company’s factory in downtown Cologne.
“The pandemic has made businesses realize that they need to invest in hygiene measures for employees and customers. It goes from being good-to-obligatory”, she said. Obladen added.
As Germany began to relax some blockade measures, Obladen and Nickel’s five-person startup was flooded with requests from shops, cafes and offices that wanted to reopen the public but received be aware of health risks in common spaces.
Friends from kindergarten, Nickel and Obladen were 17 and 18, respectively, when they competed in a high school science invention contest.
Worried about African swine fever, the two friends wanted to create something to help the virus disappear from public spaces.
Inspired by the use of ultraviolet radiation to disinfect drinking water in New York City, they designed a UV light box that can be attached to the elevator escalator to neutralize handrails. Radiation of UV light destroys the DNA of pathogenic microorganisms.
They asked their family for help in registering patents for this invention.
After graduating from university, the two friends founded UVIS with the money from start-up support program. It is also a rare engineering company in Germany run by women.
This year, the duo added a new product line, an antibacterial coating, not based on UV technology. The coating is transparent and can be sprayed onto surfaces to kill mold, bacteria and viruses as well as the new Covid-19 disease corona virus, based on the self-cleaning properties of titanium dioxide.
The largest manufacturers of elevators and escalators in Europe, including Thyssenkrupp, Schindler, Otis and Kone, are the first customers of UVIS, and put the company’s UV-proof box on the elevator in commercial centers, Hospital and train station.
But the arrival of the corona virus has caused demand to skyrocket.
“We have exceeded our sales target for the whole 2020,” Ms. Nickel said.
Particular interest is strong in Europe and Asia. UVIS recently sent 30 products for elevators to Singapore.
More future applications
Inside the factory where her grandfather – an electrician – worked, with his hat still on the shelf, Obladen demonstrated how UVIS lightbox works.
Three UVC lamps emit blue light, of which the strongest and most dangerous UV rays are in direct contact with human skin and eyes. They are surrounded by a rectangular metal case. The box will pass through the armrest of the escalator and kill all the bacteria on it.
The box is about the size of an adult’s arm and can be installed in any escalator.
Ultraviolet disinfection was used frequently in the food industry and in hospitals around the world, before the Covid-19 pandemic. In China, ultraviolet rays are also used to clean buses and banknotes circulating in the epidemic area.
Obladen said the company is looking at other ways to take advantage of the UV-sterilizing ability, but safety for people is first.
US President Donald Trump recently suggested the use of UV light in patients infected with the corona virus, stunned health professionals and warned that it could cause burns and skin cancer.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also warned against the use of UV light directly on human skin.
Obladen and Nickel plan to increase their production capacity and expand their antibacterial coating services.
They were busy spraying elevators, tables and chairs for a bunch of businesses about to reopen, as well as trolley handles in the supermarket.
“We are also looking into developing other areas, we had a bank asking about the use of ultraviolet light to disinfect money in ATMs, combined with coatings for touch screens. “, Ms. Obladen said.
“It’s interesting to think about new ways to use our patents,” the 27-year-old female director said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on April 25 announced that the country would spend money to stimulate the European economy to reduce damage from the Covid-19 pandemic. GPD Germany is expected to decline 6.3% this year, the largest number since the 1950s.