Students from Voronezh have developed a dual-action sterilizer for public transport
With the onset of coronavirus, public transport systems worldwide have welcomed an army of disinfection specialists. Their job is to wipe railings and handles with disinfectant-laden wipes and clean the cabin seats at terminal stops. And even though they wear masks, they often have to move through a crowd of passengers, putting their health and well-being on the line by encountering masses of people. While their work is critically important, it is hard to evaluate their effectiveness, which depends on each worker’s thoroughness and may vary with the number of passengers.
Crowds make it harder to wipe every surface and increase the need for disinfection. According to Russia’s consumer protection agency Rospotrebnadzor, public transport is the number one place to catch the virus. In November, the agency’s head Anna Popova was quoted as saying: ‘The most dangerous places are those where social distancing is hard to maintain. Most often, people catch the disease in public transport.’
It is possible that a new device designed in Russia may replace human disinfection teams in buses and streetcars and solve the issue of public transport safety. A team from the student R&D lab of the Voronezh State Technical University have developed what they called a Transport Disinfection System. Amidst a global viral pandemic, their UV recirculator can help maintain safety on public transport, as well as in carsharing and private vehicles. The project was run as a part of the intensive education program of NTI’s University 2035.
‘Our solution is unique because it is the first such system designed in Russia,’ explains the director of the University’s office for research and innovation commercialization Aleksandr Sergeyev.
According to him, the device has two modes. One is the air purification mode, allowing for the driver and passengers to remain in the vehicle. The UV recirculator takes the air in, disinfects it, and sends it back out into the cabin. In the second mode, the device rays everything with UV light, destroying pathogens on every surface. When cleaning a public transport vehicle, the procedure must be performed at the terminal or in maintenance when the cabin is empty. The device can detect the presence of people. ‘Our country does not yet have a device that combines air and surface purification,’ stresses Sergeyev.
He claims that the bench tests have confirmed the effectiveness of the UV recirculator. Once the experimental version has been tested, the team plans to assemble a demo version, followed by developing a wide range of devices that enable effective cleaning of both public and private vehicles.
Local transport businesses and agencies have already expressed interest in the Voronezh students’ invention. That is why the team plans to begin the deployment locally first. They expect the device to cost upwards of 50,000 rubles (~US$650).
‘We are hoping to commercialize this project, but it is quite obvious that students alone cannot take to the production phase. That is why we are hoping for industrial partners to step forward and assist us, notes Sergeyev. Presently, we are actively working on getting the design certified. Unfortunately, our Russian legal framework does not allow us to achieve that quickly, but we are moving in that direction. We are also working on submitting a patent application to secure IP rights. Moreover, we are surveying the potential size of the market as production capacity depends on the demand. Obviously, we are talking about the entire public transport sector of Russia, and possibly other countries as well.’
The Voronezh State Tech University is the base university of the Voronezh region. It is a modern scientific, educational, and R&D hub that provides teaching, re-training, and advanced professional development programs to the regional industrial and construction sectors. Over 20,000 people study here. The Student R&D Center is a sub-division of the VSTU, where the most talented young engineers bring their ideas to life.
As of November 17, over 55 million cases of COVID-19 have been registered globally, and over 1,330,000 people died from it. In Russia, 1,970,000 people have been infected, and 33,900 died as a result.