UCT student to launch disinfecting system

Rowyn Naidoo

Since developing a smart short-wavelength ultraviolet-C (UVC) light system that disinfects surfaces, a UCT student has put together a team to help formally launch the product and take it to the market.

Electrical engineering student Rowyn Naidoo designed the UVC light system in response to Professor Amit Mishra’s challenge to engineering students to design devices to help counter Covid-19. The system disinfects surfaces, the air and large rooms – and even face masks, making them reusable.

“Since there is currently no vaccine available, we have to rely on mitigation strategies such as the disinfection of commonly touched surfaces. This light system aims to provide automatic and convenient disinfection in larger spaces. The way it works is, UVC light is absorbed by viruses and bacteria causing damage to their genetic material. This impacts their ability to replicate and thus cause diseases.”

While there are some commercially available UVC disinfection products available, Rowyn said this project would provide automatic, optimised disinfection on a much larger scale, such as entire rooms or lecture venues. “I took the approach of how to actually kill the viruses while playing to my strengths as an electrical engineering student. I was aware of the use of UVC for this application and that it’s not in common use because of safety factors and cost. I then played around with these limitations towards a solution that is safe, feasible and cost-effective.”

The system uses a combination of wall-or-ceiling-installed lamps and occupancy detection sensors to determine if the room is vacant. It then automatically and safely switches on the UVC lights to irradiate the air and surfaces for the required amount of time, then automatically switches off for effective, economical disinfection.

His design incorporates other safety precautions such as trip switches in the event someone opens the door to enter the room. This prevents their exposure to the harmful light.

Rowyn used his free time during lockdown to design the system and has since put together a team and incorporated a company which would be trading under the name RaySync.

“Currently the main unique focus has been on the manifold engagements locally, nationally and internationally and growing collaborative possibilities. We are currently developing this as a product which would be implemented through the vehicle of a private company,” he said.

And while Rowyn has resumed his studies via online learning, he remains focused on this project with a view towards rapid development and implementation. Speaking on the lockdown, he said: “For me the pandemic and lockdown has had a direct impact on the basic way I live and on my studies at UCT. What increasingly becomes clear, is that a continued effort to innovate better ways to respond to the global pandemic is paramount.”