Ultraviolet Lights Found Effective in Pandemic

A worker disinfecting the entrance to the Gymnasia Rehavia high school in Yerushalayim after a coronvirus outbreak forced its closure. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An Israeli physicist working with European colleagues is advocating the broader use of ultraviolet lights to disinfect public places during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The potential of ultraviolet lights isn’t new, but it isn’t being explored enough in the pandemic, and they are a great option to help get economies operating again while making offices and schools safe, and also helping to make hospitals cleaner,” Haifa-based quantum physicist Ido Kaminer told The Times of Israel.

“This is why we wrote our paper,” Kaminer said, referring to publication of their findings in the American Chemical Society’s journal ACS Nano. Other members of the research group are located in Britain and Spain.

“Our team has looked at a lot of solutions that are being proposed for reopening economies while preventing second waves, like chemical cleaning methods and anti-microbial coatings, and UV is the best in terms of how fast it can be deployed on a large scale, and the price of deployment,” said Kaminer.

Oded Shoseyov, professor at the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, said that while UV is already used in some places, the paper is “important” in highlighting its potential for the pandemic. Shosayov, who didn’t take part in the research, said that it puts forward a “good idea” and “shows that UV can be scaled and installed in public places.”

Acknowledging that UV can be harmful to human skin in uncontrolled exposure, they recommend that when public are empty and motion sensors confirm that, ultraviolet lights should switch on to sterilize. Bathrooms could automatically disinfect when empty.

The research team calculated the cost at $1-per-worker for buying lamps that cover the spaces where workers or students spend most of their time, and disinfect the air that they breathe there, Kaminer said. With more investment, other areas could be covered as well.

“The technology already exists, it wouldn’t be expensive, and it can be used to make a difference,” Kaminer added.