Friends since kindergarten, Nickel and Obladen were 17 and 18 years old when they entered an inventors’ competition.
Worried about the swine flu pandemic at the time, they wanted to come up with something to make public places germ-free.
Inspired by New York City’s use of ultraviolet radiation to sterilize drinking water, they designed a UV light box that can be built into escalators to disinfect handrails, with the radiation destroying the DNA of disease-causing micro-organisms.
They asked their families for help filing the patent.
“They knew us and knew we would stick with it,” Obladen recalled.
After finishing university, the pair founded UVIS in 2016 with seed money from programs for start-ups. They remain a rare example in Germany of women running an engineering firm.
This year, the duo added an antimicrobial coating to their line-up, not based on UV technology. The invisible coating can be sprayed onto surfaces to destroy mold, bacteria and viruses like the novel coronavirus, using the self-cleaning properties of titanium dioxide.