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Covid-19 update: 23 July 2020

23 Jul 2020

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

“2020 is the year that Covid-19 has changed our view about the world, from finance to ecology to us, humans,” said Dr. Dimitrios Damianos, Technology & Market Analyst, Photonics & Sensing at tech markets analyst Yole Développement. “Yole expects that there will be an effect on MEMS markets. Indeed, we have accounted for a combination of positive and negative scenarios regarding the main markets, applications and devices concerned,” he added.

Yole’s Photonic & Sensing team details these forecasts in its new annual report Status of the MEMS Industry 2020, which was first published in 2004. Analysis, market consolidation and forecasts were done during May 2020 using Yole’s database, with the effect and hypotheses regarding Covid-19, dating end of April 2020. Considering the Covid-19 impacts, the analysts examine the MEMS market and propose a complete review of the MEMS industry and future trends.

There are opportunities for MEMS to be used in very different applications. More people working from home will favor the market for data centers and accelerate the deployment of 5G; the lockdown has slammed on the brakes in markets such as automotive and, to a lesser extent, consumer devices due to a dramatic drop in demand.

According to the latest Status of the MEMS Industry 2020 report, MEMS for consumer devices will be mainly supported by RF5 MEMS. It will continue to grow in 2020 and beyond due to the expanding 5G and sub 6 GHz band rollout that precipitates the need for BAW6 filters. Including RF MEMS the consumer market contracts only by 2.6%, but without RF MEMS it is poised to slump by 16% in 2020. A recovery to pre-Covid levels is expected in 2021, and growth will resume.

“In the automotive field, negative effects of Covid-19 will be prominent with a -27.5% YoY decline in 2020,” said Dr. Eric Mounier, Fellow Analyst at Yole. “Most devices related to automotive will suffer because of the drop in the market, including sensing, lighting and power. Pressure and inertial MEMS will continue to lead this market, since they are indispensable in safety systems such as TPMS7, airbags, ESC8 and roll-over detection.”

Industrial MEMS sales are also set to benefit from the Covid-19 pandemic, says the report, as thermal imaging and sensing systems, both thermopile- and microbolometer-based, are expected to surge due to the need for contactless body temperature measurement.

Toyoda Gosei (TG), based in Iyosu, Japan, has developed a deep UV LED light module for use in the sterilization of water, air, and surfaces. These new modules take advantage of the technology that the company has accumulated over 30 years in the development and production of blue LEDs.

Deep UV LEDs emit short wavelength ultraviolet light that can destroy the genetic materials of viruses and bacteria. These LEDs are “promising”, says TG, “as a new sterilizing light source that can be used in place of mercury lamps, for which there is environmental concern.” With the aim of promoting applications of this technology, Toyoda Gosei has been developing products in modules or units with waterproof or heat dissipation features.

In a joint experiment conducted with Japan’s Biomedical Science Association (a certified non-profit organization in Japan, consisting of specialists from national research institutes and universities in medicine and other scientific fields) using human coronavirus 229E (HCoV-229E), similar to Covid-19 (SARS-CoV2), the modules were demonstrated to be “highly effective in sterilization.”

Toyoda Gosei is now cooperating with the Toyota Group and other companies to develop applications for water, air and surface sterilization that contribute to safer and healthier living. The company will continue to contribute to the creation of a sustainable society through the core technologies it has cultivated.

Coordinated exit ‘crucial’ to avoid second-wave

Research by the University of Southampton, UK, shows that European countries need to work together when lifting lockdown measures, to prevent Covid-19 cases rising again on the continent. A study by WorldPop population mapping analyst firm, has found any resurgence of the virus would be brought forward by up to five weeks if well-connected countries prematurely end their non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), such as social distancing and self-isolation, without coordinating efforts. Detailed findings are published in Science.

Lead author of the study, Dr Nick Ruktanonchai commented, “Our study shows the timing of any second epidemic across Europe depends on the actions of countries that are populous, well-connected and currently have strong interventions in place. The uncoordinated easing of NPIs can lead to much earlier secondary epidemics, while coordination can mean much higher likelihoods of eliminating all local cases.”

Director of WorldPop, Professor Andy Tatem, added, “Intergovernmental organizations, such as the World Health Organization, have stressed the importance of international solidarity to share resources and expertise to combat Covid-19. Our results underline this and suggest that coordination between countries removing lockdown measures is vital. One country ending NPIs before others could lead to an accelerated resurgence of the disease.”

The researchers used anonymized Vodafone mobile phone data and a Google mobility dataset to provide information on trends of population movement. They combined this with publicly available Covid-19 infection data. Using a sophisticated model, the team ran multiple exit strategy scenarios – each estimating the effect of relaxing different lockdown measures in different country combinations among 35 European countries, to examine how this affected virus spread in Europe over a six month period.

The researchers concluded that if countries work together, it could greatly improve the likelihood of ending community transmission of Covid-19 throughout the continent. In particular, they showed that synchronizing intermittent lockdowns across countries would lead to half as many lockdown periods being necessary to achieve an end to transmission of the virus among people in Europe.

Disinfection using ultraviolet light

While awaiting full access to their labs due to Covid-19 restrictions, scientists at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have taken the opportunity to report the technical details of pioneering research they conducted on the disinfection of drinking water using ultraviolet (UV) light. Back in 2012, the NIST scientists and their collaborators published several papers on some fundamental findings with potential benefits to water utility companies. But these articles never fully explained the irradiation setup that made the work possible.

Now, for the first time, NIST researchers are publishing the technical details of the unique experiment, which relied on a portable laser to test how well different wavelengths of UV light inactivated different microorganisms in water. The work is published in this month's Review of Scientific Instruments.

One urgency for publishing a full description of the NIST system is that researchers envision using this UV setup for new experiments that go beyond the study of drinking water and into disinfection of solid surfaces and air. The potential applications could include better UV disinfection of hospital rooms and even studies of how sunlight inactivates the coronavirus responsible for Covid-19.

At the time of the original study, most water irradiation systems used a UV lamp that emitted most of its UV light at a single wavelength, 254 nm. For years, though, water utility companies had shown increasing interest in a different type of disinfection lamp that was “polychromatic,” meaning it emitted UV light at multiple different wavelengths. But the effectiveness of the new lamps was not well defined, said Karl Linden, a University of Colorado Boulder environmental engineer who was a principal investigator on the 2012 study.

“We discovered in the mid-2000s that polychromatic UV sources were more effective for virus inactivation — specifically because these lamps produced UV light at low wavelengths, under 230 nm,” Linden said. “But it was hard to quantify how much more effective and what the mechanisms of that effectiveness were.”

CrowdScan, a spin-off from imec and the University of Antwerp, Belgium, has developed a system that measures the density of a crowd in real-time using a wireless sensor network. CrowdScan measures crowd densities without using camera images, mobile phone data or other privacy-sensitive information. By transmitting low-energetic radio waves (868 MHz), CrowdScan measures the average signal attenuation of a wireless sensor network relative to the empty environment.

Covid-19 and social distancing

The technology was validated at different large-scale events such as Tomorrowland. When the coronavirus crisis broke out, CrowdScan immediately realized the added value of the technology for helping society adapt to the new needs of social distancing. The business model was extended from services for event organizers to services for local governments and cities. In May, a successful pilot project was launched to measure the size of groups on a bridge and a street near the MAS museum in Antwerp.

"There will be no mass events this summer, but the importance of accurate information on crowd densities has only increased since the coronavirus crisis," commented Ben Bellekens, CEO of CrowdScan. “By providing police and emergency services with accurate information on crowd densities, they can make fast, objective decisions. This can help cities guarantee social distancing at places where population density is high, like city streets, public events, or parks."

Spectrum Scientific Inc. -  SSI OpticsAUREA TECHNOLOGYAFLDelta Optical Thin Film A/SDiverse Optics Inc.Photon Engineering, LLCScitec Instruments Ltd
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