Urban Sun, the ultraviolet light that ‘cleans’ public spaces of Covid

Imane Rachidi

Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Mar 6 (efe-epa).- Vaccines against Covid-19 are the light at the end of the tunnel, but a mix of scientific and artistic creativity can lend a helping hand in times of pandemic. That’s where Urban Sun, a project by Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde, has stepped in, promising to reduce the amount of coronavirus in crowded public spaces using ultraviolet light.

The goal of the initiative is to renew hope and fight the negative impacts of social isolation. Targeting cultural events, sporting events, public squares and school playgrounds, attendees will have an additional layer of protection thanks to a custom-made globe suspended over their heads that illuminates a giant circle of light, the ‘safe zone’.

The power of light underpins the idea: research from Columbia University and Hiroshima University shows that a new far-ultraviolet light, with a wavelength of 222 nanometers, can safely disinfect up to 99.9 % of the virus circulating in a particular area in a public space.

“Urban Sun illuminates a large circle of this far-ultraviolet light in public spaces, cleansing them of coronaviruses. It acts as an additional layer of protection to the current rules required” by the authorities, Roosegaarde explains to Efe. With the pilot program already in operation, he hopes that “the development and acceptance” of the idea will increase and that “the next steps will be easier and simpler”.

The technology comes from use in hospitals to reduce the risk of infections during operations — it is a special light, not the traditional 254-nanometer ultraviolet, which is known to be harmful.

Unlike other far-ultraviolet light sources, Urban Sun has been designed to produce no ozone and contains no mercury: its only task is to disinfect surfaces and air of all bacteria, viruses and spores in a matter of minutes.

“Suddenly, our world is filled with plastic barriers and stickers asking for distance, our family is reduced to pixels on a computer screen. Let’s be the architects of our new normal and create better places to meet and interact,” the Dutch designer adds.

Roosegaarde, his team of designers, external experts and other Dutch, American, Japanese and Italian scientists set about the challenge of “discovering how the power of light can be used to fight the virus and thereby improve our well-being,” he added.

The far-ultraviolet light source used by Urban Sun is “measured and calibrated” by the Netherlands National Metrology Institute (VSL) and the project is being carried out in collaboration with the Council of the Board of Public Health, an independent advisory body to the Dutch Parliament.

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