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Tackling viruses with UV light

The use of UV light technology is taking the fight to COVID-19 and creating safe spaces for workers in a variety of applications

A simple retrofit of existing ventilation, incorporating Soluva UVC lamps from Heraeus Noblelight, has increased employee protection and helped to minimise the risk of production downtime in a high-tech cleanroom manufacturing telecommunications components for satellites at the Ulm factory of the Thales Group.

The Thales Group designs and delivers high technology solutions for telecommunications, navigation, earth observation, environmental management, exploration, science and orbital infrastructures. At Ulm, the company builds travelling wave tubes for installation in signal amplifiers. These improve signal strength and thus ensure interference-free reception of satellites for telecommunications and multimedia.

These high-quality components are manufactured in high integrity clean rooms, because the work area must be absolutely dust-free. To achieve this, ventilation systems with fine dust filters are used to clean the used air in a recirculation system. This works perfectly, but this air circulation with only a small proportion of fresh air increases the risk of infection of the employees by the COVID-19 virus. The Thales Group invested in infection prevention for its employees early on, both to safeguard employee health and to reduce the risk of a production shutdown. When investigating the various options for rapid additional Covid disinfection of the air, it quickly became apparent that installing HEPA filters of sufficient strength in the existing plant would not work. The existing ventilation system would not have enough capacity to handle the increased drag from the additional filters. The capacity of the system would have had to be doubled.

Looking for alternatives, technicians at Thales worked with an external ventilation contractor and Heraeus Noblelight, specialist for technical light sources, to check whether disinfection with UVC light could be an option. The UV experts calculated how large the UV unit should be for an additional system and finally stipulated the specific number of Soluva UVC lamps that could be easily retrofitted into the existing ventilation system by the ventilation contractor. The lamps are controlled by Soluva D control cabinets to enable effective disinfection of the air in the workrooms.

Kai Penkava, maintenance manager CCI at Thales Germany is convinced: “With the simple retrofit into the existing plant, we now not only have a dust-free production but are also protected against viruses and other germs.”

• Special purpose UV emitter modules from Heraeus Noblelight have been installed in the ventilation ducts of a vaccination centre in Offenbach, Germany, to provide protection to patients and staff against COVID-19.

Anti-Covid vaccination is now taking place globally and this has involved quickly converting a variety of buildings, from schools to sports centres, into vaccination centres which are fit for purpose. In the town of Offenbach, it was decided that the local civic centre would be suitable for this task. However, although all the necessary hygiene procedures were adopted, such as hand washing and maintaining social distance, it was felt that additional safety measures were also required.

Consequently, Offenbach’s specialist air conditioning and ventilation contractor, Herbert Wagner Haustechnik, contacted the UV experts at Heraeus Noblelight. UV light is described as effective against viruses and bacteria and can destroy the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its mutations. This has been scientifically proven by tests at establishments such as the Fraunhofer Institute, the Hygiene Institute Biotec and the University of Tuebingen.

Heraeus and Wagner then worked together to design the optimum UV system for the vaccination centre. As it was not possible to suspend any UV units from the ceiling, the best solution was to integrate eight UV modules within eight ventilation ducts. Using a computer tool to match the UV module size to the ducts and determine the precise air flow, the Heraeus Soluva Air D modules, available in four sizes, were selected and provide COVID-19 protection at the vaccination centre.

Matthias Wagner, the air conditioning and ventilation specialist, is extremely happy with the installation. 

He says: “The system changes the air in the hall more than five times an hour. In total that is more than 50,000 cubic metres of air which is steadily disinfected. Without the additional UV disinfection in the circulating air system, the vaccination centre could not have started operating.”

The Heraeus Soluva family of UV products provides air disinfection in modules, which can be ceiling- or wall-mounted or fitted within ventilation and air-conditioning systems for rooms or laboratories and for buses and trains. Surface disinfection systems are also offered as hand-held units or as chambers for the disinfection of masks and cell phones.

28 July 2021

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