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Covid update: 17 December 2020

17 Dec 2020

A round-up of this week's coronavirus-related news and countermeasures from the photonics industry.

Berlin researchers develop UVC LEDs to fight coronaviruses

In the joint CORSA project, SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses on surfaces and skin are to be deactivated by using UVC light. The project team is developing special UVC LEDs for this purpose and is investigating parameters such as wavelengths, irradiation doses and virus habitats. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is supporting the three-year project from 2021 with a total of three million euros.

Like bacteria and fungi, viruses can be inactivated by UVC light. However, for the current coronavirus, no reliable data on the optimal wavelengths and irradiation doses have been available to date. This is to change with the CORSA project (Deactivation of SARS-CoV-2 by UVC light and tolerability for humans), which has commenced.

The competencies of the nine project partners cover the complete value chain up to commercial use. The partners are further developing UV LED technologies and performing comprehensive tests to ensure that the irradiation is as effective as it is safe for humans. UVC LEDs in the wavelength range around 270 nm provide the basis for irradiating non-living surfaces, especially in air filters.

LEDs with emissions around 233 nm are to be used directly on humans. In order to test the effectiveness of UVC radiation in aerosols and on human and animal skin, the Ferdinand-Braun-Institut (FBH) is developing suitable LEDs and irradiation systems in cooperation with the Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin), UVphotonics NT GmbH and Osram Opto Semiconductors.

270 nm LEDs, which Osram Opto Semiconductors is working on, will be used for non-living surfaces that are not suited for chemical disinfection, as well as for aerosols. In particular, the project partners are testing how to eliminate the coronavirus in ventilation systems when the circulated air or filters are irradiated. In the process, the optimal irradiation doses and times that effectively inactivate the virus will be determined.

UVC LEDs with emission wavelengths around 233 nm cause little damage to human skin. This makes them attractive for antisepsis as well as for disinfection of busy indoor areas, for example in schools, theaters or operating rooms. Such LEDs are currently not commercially available. However, FBH and TU Berlin have been researching and developing UVC LEDs for several years as part of their Joint Lab GaN Optoelectronics and are worldwide leading in light emitting diodes in this wavelength range.

'Distance, masks, quarantine' are most effective protection, says Harvard

Natural variations in ultraviolet radiation influence the spread of Covid-19, but the influence is modest compared to preventive measures such as physical distancing, mask wearing, and quarantine, according to new research from Harvard University.

“Understanding the potential seasonality of Covid-19 transmission could help inform our response to the pandemic in the coming months,” said Jonathan Proctor, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Data Science Initiative and the Harvard Center for the Environment. “These findings suggest that the incidence of Covid-19 may have a seasonal pattern, spreading faster in the winter when it’s darker than in the summer.”

Analyzing daily Covid-19 and weather data from over 3,000 administrative regions in more than 170 countries, Proctor, together with co-authors Peter Huybers, also at Harvard University, Tamma Carleton and Kyle Meng from the University of California Santa Barbara and Jules Cornetet at France’s École Normale Supérieure, Paris-Saclay, France, found that the spread of Covid-19 through a population tended to be lower in the weeks following higher UV exposure. Findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

NASA satellites track pandemic from space

Economic and social shutdowns in response to the Covid-19 pandemic have led to noticeable changes in Earth’s environment, at least for the short term. NASA researchers are using satellite and ground-based observations to track these impacts on our air, land, water and climate. These datasets have been collected in a free and openly available online dashboard.

The NASA Covid-19 Dashboard features data collected by Earth-observing satellites, instruments aboard the International Space Station, and sensitive ground-based networks. The global maps are searchable by several categories of observable change, including economic indicators, such as shipping and construction activity, and environmental factors, such as water quality and climate variations.

NASA scientists use many different tools, datasets, and methods to investigate Covid-related changes in the Earth system. Comparing complementary datasets on the dashboard helps reveal a deeper story of how the environment is changing due to Covid-related shutdowns.

For example, scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center discovered that emptier parking lots near closed, non-essential businesses, in combination with cleaner air from less surface transportation, meant that heat from the sun radiating off dark asphalt and cement surfaces did not stay trapped near the ground as long. Instead, heat dissipated quickly, cooling the urban environment.

Comparing the data to pre-pandemic years, scientists found that large parking lots, highway corridors, and commercial rooftops were, on average, 10-15˚F (about 5-8˚C) cooler from March to May 2020. The NASA Covid-19 Dashboard will be updated with more data and discoveries throughout the pandemic and beyond.

Osram presents first UV-C LEDs, designed to destroy viruses

UV-C light can eliminate 99.9 percent of viruses and bacteria on surfaces, in the air and in drinking water, according to longstanding LED developer Osram Opto Semiconductors. Now a UV-C LED development by the company is offering such applications, while driving the industrialization of these sources forward. The company says its Oslon UV 3636 “marks the beginning of a comprehensive portfolio in the UV-C LED sector.

Irradiation with UV-C light causes chemical bonds in the RNA or DNA helix of the pathogens to break down. A notable advantage of modern, LED-based UV-C solutions is the compact size of the light sources.

The Oslon UV 3636 LEDs can be installed easily on the final application for direct interaction with the substance being sanitized such as: significantly reducing germs in faucets (taps) and disinfecting the air in air conditioning systems.

Osram OS comments, “The direct integration of the light sources also has the advantage of ensuring that the high-energy, short-wave UV-C light does not reach the surrounding area, and therefore, does not pose a risk to people.”

The Oslon UV 3636 is available in low- and mid-power versions and features compact dimensions of 3.6 x 3.6 mm. With a wavelength of 275 nm, both versions are suited to disinfection applications. The low-power version achieves 4.5 mW at 30 mA; the mid-power version delivers 42 mW at 350 mA.

Carl Zeiss Meditec has reported revenues of €1,335.5m in its fiscal year 2019/20 (prior year: €1,459.3m), representing a decline of -8.5%, year on year. Pre-tax earnings decreased to €177.6m (prior year: €264.7m). The company blamed this revenue slump squarely on the pandemic.

“The latest fiscal year was entirely dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic,” commented Dr. Ludwin Monz, President and CEO. “Our top priority was the close cooperation with our customers and protecting our employees. We responded quickly to the short-term decline in demand, secured our production and delivery capacity and adjusted costs. A stable overall surgical consumables business also helped to limit the decline in revenue and profit.”

Revenue in the Ophthalmic Devices strategic business unit (SBU) decreased by -7.3% to €990.6m (prior year: €1,068.6m). Revenue in the Microsurgery SBU decreased by -11.7% to €344.8m (prior year: €390.7m). Revenue in the EMEA region decreased by -13.1% to €362.4m (prior year: €417.1m). Declines were recorded particularly in the markets worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in Western Europe, the UK, Turkey and the Middle East region.

There was a perceptible recovery in Germany toward the end of the reporting period, the report states. The Americas region recorded a revenue decline of -13.2% to €384.0m (prior year: €442.5m). Revenue decreased significantly in the USA and Brazil in particular, after both had achieved growth in the first six months of the fiscal year.

The company forecasts a recovery of the markets in 2020/21 and thus a return to renewed growth in revenue and earnings, stating, “In light of the current [mid-December] Covid-19 infection rates in Europe and North America, however, it cannot be ruled out that the pandemic may cause further strain at the beginning of the new fiscal year.”

ams and Senova begin production of Covid-19 antibody testers

Sensor solutions developer ams, Premstaetten, Austria, and Senova, a manufacturer of in-vitro diagnostic medical devices based in Germany, have opened a production line for lateral flow tests which will be used to detect antibodies from the Covid-19 virus. In Weimar, Thuringia, and under strict Covid-19 social distancing conditions, the partners opened the line and congratulated the teams who brought the idea into production in under nine months.

A dedicated sensor module, based on ams’s AS7341L sensor, allows spectrally resolved sensitive read-out of lateral flow immune assays, and the data will be sent to a medical certified cloud. The device, using lateral flow technology coupled with a spectral sensor, provides an objective result. With Senova’s GreenLight platform, the test kit can be deployed in clinics and other point-of-care situations.

SWIR Vision Systems Inc.DIAMOND SADataRay Inc.AlluxaLasermet LtdSpectrum Scientific Inc. -  SSI OpticsAUREA TECHNOLOGY
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