The World has Changed
But the pressure to reopen the world’s economies has become so enormous that factories are accelerating their production of ultraviolet lamps without waiting.
“We really need something in situations like offices, restaurants, airplanes, hospitals,” Brenner said.
If UVC lamps have already been in commercial use for two or three years — notably in the diamond industry, where they can be used to distinguish artificial from real gems — potential clients are now legion, say companies producing them.
“We felt for a long time this is a great application for this technology,” said John Yerger, the CEO of Eden Park Illumination, a small producer based in Champaign, Illinois.
But with the pandemic, “the world has changed a lot in the last three months,” he added.
And the US Food and Drug Administration has relaxed its regulation of tools or agents that can be used for disinfection, encouraging manufacturers to find a solution.
“There will be thousands and thousands of these things (UVC lamps) for sure,” Yerger said. “The question is, will it be millions?”
“What we are seeing is a tremendous amount of customer interest” to produce lamps for airlines, cruise ships, restaurants, movie theaters and schools, said Shinji Kameda, chief operations officer in the US for Ushio, a Japanese manufacturer.
Production of its 222-nanometer lamps, sold for $500 to $800 and already used in some Japanese hospitals, will be stepped up in October, he said.
In the meantime, Brenner said he has been losing sleep.
“I spend nights thinking — if this far-UVC project had started one or two years earlier, maybe we could have prevented the COVID-19 crisis,” he said.
“Not completely, but maybe we could have prevented it being a pandemic.”