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UVC LEDs Disinfection Capability of Automotive Cabin Air

James Peterson
Presented by

Dr. Richard Mariita, Senior Microbiologist and Biosafety Officer
Carl Bengtsson, Director of New Business Development

Humans spend more than 90% of their lifetimes in indoor environments such as workplaces, homes, and cars. Poor indoor environments are responsible for sick building syndrome, which is associated with heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases. The outbreak of COVID-19 (respiratory illness) that causes death, or long-lasting lung damage 1, has highlighted the need to keep our vehicles healthy and safe. The New England Journal of Medicine states that viruses such as those responsible for COVID-19 can live on surfaces for up to 72 hours 2. A paper published by 3 has estimated the airflow patterns and concentrations that increase airborne disease transmission in automotive vehicles. In the United States, healthcare spending associated with fungal infections is ~$6.7 billion per year 3 has estimated the airflow patterns and concentrations that increase airborne disease transmission in automotive vehicles. Add to the fact that Americans spend more than 84 billion hours driving per annum 4, contributing to the urgent need for solutions to protect automobile occupants.

COVID-19 changed consumer behavior and awareness; the risk of infection became detrimental to choosing modes of transportation 5. In August 2020 the McKinsey survey identified public transportation and ridesharing as the least safe transportation options 6.

In our recent peer-reviewed journal article published by Atmosphere7, our team demonstrated the usage of Ultraviolet Subtype C (UVC) light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in an automobile’s HVAC system offers 90% viral reduction within 5 mins. The HVAC ventilation alone will take > 15 mins to achieve the same performance as when combined with the UVC LEDs. UVC LEDs are even more beneficial when combating viral pathogens because they are weak against UVC irradiation. In fact, against SARS-CoV-2, the viral reduction would have been 99.986%. UVC LED application in automobile HVAC systems is complementary to ensure mold/fungal, bacteria, and viruses are inactivated and do not multiply in the system.


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  2. van Doremalen, N. et al. Aerosol and surface stability of sars-cov-2 as compared with sars-cov-1. New England Journal of Medicine, 382 1564-1567(2022).

  3. Mathai, V., Das, A., Bailey, J. A. & Breuer, K. Airflows inside passenger cars and implications for airborne disease transmission. Science Advances, eabe0166,increase%20or%20suppress%20airborne%20transmission.

  4. Pickrell, D. How much time do Americans spend behind the wheel? volpe national transportation systems center.,is%20performing%2C%E2%80%9D%20Pickrell%20said (2027).

  5. Heineke, K., Kampshoff, P., Möller, T. & Wu, T. From no mobility to future mobility: Where COVID-19 has accelerated change | McKinsey (2020).

  6. Hattrup-Silberberg, M. et al. Five COVID-19 aftershocks reshaping mobility’s future McKinsey (2020).

  7. Mariita, R. M. et al. Towards a Healthy Car: UVC LEDs in an Automobile’s HVAC Demonstrates Effective Disinfection of Cabin Air. Atmosphere 13, (2022).