Get smarter, faster. Subscribe to our daily newsletter.
Ultraviolet LED lights kill coronavirus cheaply and effectively, scientists report
Ultraviolet LED lights could soon be used to help disinfect air and surfaces in buildings, planes, subways and other spaces.
- Ultraviolet light has long been used to kill microorganisms.
- Ultraviolet LED is a relatively new form of the technology, and it may soon become a cheaper alternative than current forms of germicidal ultraviolet irradiation.
- In the study, the researchers found a range of wavelengths at which UV-LEDs effectively kill coronaviruses. The results suggest cheaper LED bulbs be used to eliminate viruses.
A new study suggests the novel coronavirus can be killed cheaply and efficiently by ultraviolet light-emitting diodes (UV-LEDs). By using UV-LEDs in ventilation and air-conditioning systems, the technology could help disinfect air in spaces like buildings, planes, and subways. Robots equipped with UV-LEDs could also be used to disinfect surfaces.
Using ultraviolet light to kill viruses isn't a new idea. In the 1930s, epidemiologist William F. Wells showed that ultraviolet ermicidal irradiation could kill microorganisms. Soon after, schools began using UV mercury-vapor lamps to reduce the spread of measles. In the 1990s, UV was used to kill tuberculosis in homeless shelters.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, ultraviolet light has been used to disinfect subway cars and other spaces. There are several types of germicidal-ultraviolet-light technology, including excimer lamps, low-pressure mercury lamps, and pulsed xenon lamps. The newest in the bunch is UV-LED.
Dose (fluence) response curve of the HCoV-OC43 to UV-LEDs. N is virus count after the designated irradiation and N0 at time zero (without irradiation).
Credit: Gerchman et al.
"UV light-emitting diodes (UV LEDs) are an emerging UV source for disinfection," wrote the researchers behind the new study, published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology. "UV-LEDs allow for flexibility of design due to their small size and control of radiation patterns, have very short turn-on time, and require low voltage (and thus can be operated by a battery or a solar panel)."
But lower-wavelength UV-LEDs require high amounts of power, making the technology costly. That's one reason why the new study aimed to find the range of wavelengths in which UV-LEDs most effectively kill coronaviruses.
The researchers, from Tel Aviv University, found that a wavelength of 285 nanometers was about as effective at killing coronaviruses as a wavelength of 265 nanometers. That means cheaper LED bulbs could be used to kill the virus.
"We discovered that it is quite simple to kill the coronavirus using LED bulbs that radiate ultraviolet light," study author Hadas Mamane told Tel Aviv University American Friends News. "We killed the viruses using cheaper and more readily available LED bulbs, which consume little energy and do not contain mercury like regular bulbs. Our research has commercial and societal implications, given the possibility of using such LED bulbs in all areas of our lives, safely and quickly."
To be sure, the researchers didn't experiment on the novel coronavirus, but rather HCoV-OC43, which causes the common cold. But they wrote that "both human Coronaviruses HCoV-OC43 and SARS-CoV-2 are very similar, thus it is reasonable to suggest a human Coronavirus HCoV-OC43 as a surrogate for SARS-CoV-2, and our future work will confirm these results by testing the impact of LEDs and their combinations on SARS-CoV-2."
UV-LEDs may effectively kill bacteria and coronaviruses. But the main way coronaviruses spread is through respiratory droplets passed from human to human, so the technology wouldn't be able to stop that kind of spread.
What's more, like all ultraviolet light, light from UV-LED bulbs is dangerous to humans. That's why the technology, if it becomes widely available, would need to be safely integrated into the infrastructure of buildings to disinfect air, or used by robots that can be sent into spaces to quickly disinfect surfaces.
"The entire world is currently looking for effective solutions to disinfect the coronavirus," Mamane said. "The problem is that in order to disinfect a bus, train, sports hall, or plane by chemical spraying, you need physical manpower, and in order for the spraying to be effective, you have to give the chemical time to act on the surface. Disinfection systems based on LED bulbs, however, can be installed in the ventilation system and air conditioner, for example, and sterilize the air sucked in and then emitted into the room."
- Tardigrade species has fluorescent shield against UV radiation - Big ... ›
- UV light doorhandle - Big Think ›
- Coronavirus invades lung cells in chilling new images - Big Think ›
How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.
- A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
- It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
- While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Tribalism and discrimination<p>One question the "Genetic Pressure" series explores: What would tribalism and discrimination look like in a world with designer babies? As designer babies grow up, they could be noticeably different from other people, potentially being smarter, more attractive and healthier. This could breed resentment between the groups—as it does in the series.</p><p>"[Designer babies] slowly find that 'everyone else,' and even their own parents, becomes less and less tolerable," author Eugene Clark told Big Think. "Meanwhile, everyone else slowly feels threatened by the designer babies."</p><p>For example, one character in the series who was born a designer baby faces discrimination and harassment from "normal people"—they call her "soulless" and say she was "made in a factory," a "consumer product." </p><p>Would such divisions emerge in the real world? The answer may depend on who's able to afford designer baby services. If it's only the ultra-wealthy, then it's easy to imagine how being a designer baby could be seen by society as a kind of hyper-privilege, which designer babies would have to reckon with. </p><p>Even if people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can someday afford designer babies, people born designer babies may struggle with tough existential questions: Can they ever take full credit for things they achieve, or were they born with an unfair advantage? To what extent should they spend their lives helping the less fortunate? </p>
Sexuality dilemmas<p>Sexuality presents another set of thorny questions. If a designer baby industry someday allows people to optimize humans for attractiveness, designer babies could grow up to find themselves surrounded by ultra-attractive people. That may not sound like a big problem.</p><p>But consider that, if designer babies someday become the standard way to have children, there'd necessarily be a years-long gap in which only some people are having designer babies. Meanwhile, the rest of society would be having children the old-fashioned way. So, in terms of attractiveness, society could see increasingly apparent disparities in physical appearances between the two groups. "Normal people" could begin to seem increasingly ugly.</p><p>But ultra-attractive people who were born designer babies could face problems, too. One could be the loss of body image. </p><p>When designer babies grow up in the "Genetic Pressure" series, men look like all the other men, and women look like all the other women. This homogeneity of physical appearance occurs because parents of designer babies start following trends, all choosing similar traits for their children: tall, athletic build, olive skin, etc. </p><p>Sure, facial traits remain relatively unique, but everyone's more or less equally attractive. And this causes strange changes to sexual preferences.</p><p>"In a society of sexual equals, they start looking for other differentiators," he said, noting that violet-colored eyes become a rare trait that genetically engineered humans find especially attractive in the series.</p><p>But what about sexual relationships between genetically engineered humans and "normal" people? In the "Genetic Pressure" series, many "normal" people want to have kids with (or at least have sex with) genetically engineered humans. But a minority of engineered humans oppose breeding with "normal" people, and this leads to an ideology that considers engineered humans to be racially supreme. </p>
Regulating designer babies<p>On a policy level, there are many open questions about how governments might legislate a world with designer babies. But it's not totally new territory, considering the West's dark history of eugenics experiments.</p><p>In the 20th century, the U.S. conducted multiple eugenics programs, including immigration restrictions based on genetic inferiority and forced sterilizations. In 1927, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that forcibly sterilizing the mentally handicapped didn't violate the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, "… three generations of imbeciles are enough." </p><p>After the Holocaust, eugenics programs became increasingly taboo and regulated in the U.S. (though some states continued forced sterilizations <a href="https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/" target="_blank">into the 1970s</a>). In recent years, some policymakers and scientists have expressed concerns about how gene-editing technologies could reanimate the eugenics nightmares of the 20th century. </p><p>Currently, the U.S. doesn't explicitly ban human germline genetic editing on the federal level, but a combination of laws effectively render it <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">illegal to implant a genetically modified embryo</a>. Part of the reason is that scientists still aren't sure of the unintended consequences of new gene-editing technologies. </p><p>But there are also concerns that these technologies could usher in a new era of eugenics. After all, the function of a designer baby industry, like the one in the "Genetic Pressure" series, wouldn't necessarily be limited to eliminating genetic diseases; it could also work to increase the occurrence of "desirable" traits. </p><p>If the industry did that, it'd effectively signal that the <em>opposites of those traits are undesirable. </em>As the International Bioethics Committee <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a>, this would "jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics, disguised as the fulfillment of the wish for a better, improved life."</p><p><em>"Genetic Pressure Volume I: Baby Steps"</em><em> by Eugene Clark is <a href="http://bigth.ink/38VhJn3" target="_blank">available now.</a></em></p>
Meteorologists propose a stunning new explanation for the mysterious events in the Bermuda Triangle.
One of life's great mysteries, the Bermuda Triangle might have finally found an explanation. This strange region, that lies in the North Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been the presumed cause of dozens and dozens of mind-boggling disappearances of ships and planes.
A unique exoplanet without clouds or haze was found by astrophysicists from Harvard and Smithsonian.
- Astronomers from Harvard and Smithsonian find a very rare "hot Jupiter" exoplanet without clouds or haze.
- Such planets were formed differently from others and offer unique research opportunities.
- Only one other such exoplanet was found previously.
Munazza Alam – a graduate student at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian.
Credit: Jackie Faherty
Jupiter's Colorful Cloud Bands Studied by Spacecraft<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8a72dfe5b407b584cf867852c36211dc"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GzUzCesfVuw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Scientists discover burrows of giant predator worms that lived on the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- Scientists in Taiwan find the lair of giant predator worms that inhabited the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- The worm is possibly related to the modern bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois).
- The creatures can reach several meters in length and famously ambush their pray.
A three-dimensional model of the feeding behavior of Bobbit worms and the proposed formation of Pennichnus formosae.
Credit: Scientific Reports
Beware the Bobbit Worm!<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1f9918e77851242c91382369581d3aac"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_As1pHhyDHY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The idea behind the law was simple: make it more difficult for online sex traffickers to find victims.