How The Covicide Cabinet Helps To Prevent The Spread Of Coronavirus At Home And At Work

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Genisup India Private limited, a Hosur based startup, has created a UV-C germicidal lamp-based sterilisation cabinet that can safely disinfect personal items or belongings, addressing the need to stay safe during the current COVID-19 crisis.

By Potshangbam July

The Covid-19 pandemic has paralysed the daily lives of people and the operations of businesses in every nook and corner of the world. As the virus continues to spread unabated, there are huge challenges in getting back to work. Apart from direct human-to-human transmission, an infected person can contaminate the surfaces or everyday objects like newspapers, packages, groceries, etc, by sneezing, coughing or touching them. And this virus survives for a long time—from a few hours to many days on surfaces like doorknobs and countertops. Again, how long the virus survives depends on the material used on the surfaces. According to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can live in the air and on surfaces between several hours and several days. The study found that the virus remains potent for up to 72 hours on plastics, 48 hours on stainless steel, 24 hours on cardboard, and four hours on copper. It is also detectable in the air for three hours.

To address these pressing problems, Genisup has stepped up its efforts and come out with an appliance called the COVICIDE Cabinet to ensure protection of one’s personal space, by preventing the entry of the deadly virus. The appliance is a multi-purpose UV-C disinfection cabinet that comprises a UV-C germicidal lamp, a smart switch and a sensor that automatically shuts down the AC power source when the disinfection cycle is completed.

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How the company started
The company came into existence in May 2018, with two directors on board—Vinay Seth and Roshan Verma. Sharing the experience, Seth says, “We started off with bootstrapped funds with two directors on board—Roshan Verma and myself. At the time of inception, the main operations of the company were to provide consultancy and services to IT companies in the VLSI domain. We also provided manufacturing support for products and consultancy to the manufacturing industry.” Soon after, the company began R&D work on the products that it was importing from China. Genisup decided to combine its IT and manufacturing operations to make products developed in India, from scratch. Seth adds, “Currently, we are working on multiple different products, with a couple of them already in the market, focused towards B2B clients.”

How the concept of the COVICIDE Cabinet was born
With the spiralling number of coronavirus cases, the duo decided to come up with a feasible and affordable solution that will help in fighting COVID-19. UV is widely used for sterilisation purposes in hospitals, but such products are not easily available to the common man. In the current situation, when a lot of emphasis is being put on hygiene and cleanliness, there is no viable solution available to disinfect personal belongings. Seth explains, “Things like the masks that we wear outside the home, the groceries we procure, the cash we exchange, the clothes we wear, the caps we put on, and other such things, tend to enter our personal space—both inside our houses and at our offices – and this tends to go unchecked. In a scenario like this, we have to protect ourselves from all possible directions, in every possible way. Our solution acts as a check point to sterilise, and so, decontaminate the things that we would otherwise use without a second thought.”

What one should be aware of while purchasing a product that uses UV light to disinfect
In these trying times, there are products in the market that give a fake sense of security to the user. There are many UV-A lights being passed off as germicidal lamps. The term UV itself tends to give users a sense of security and those who’re unaware about the difference between UV-A and UV-C fall prey to such marketing. According to Vinay Seth, director, Genisup India, there are certain questions that the user should ask before deciding on a UV based steriliser.

  • What is the source of the UV light? The most commonly used is of 253.7nm wavelength, which is germicidal. This is a very important question as this determines whether the UV generated can be used for disinfection purposes or not. Also, it should not be in the UVV spectrum (or UV Vacuum), which generates ozone that is harmful.
  • What is the number of UV lamps and the area covered? Since the whole point in using UV light is to make use of its wavelength, one must remember that wherever the shadows occur, the light does not reach and so, those areas remain untreated. As per available data, one single SARS-COV-2 virus is 65nm-125nm diameter. So, in a 1mm² surface area that’s untreated, there will be 8000-15000 active viruses that can very well spread the disease. Even the mesh that is used to place the items casts a shadow which can leave several millimetres untreated. Also, not all surfaces reflect 100 per cent UV germicidal irradiation. Thus, the right placement and quantity of UV light is a must to ensure that all surface areas are covered in one disinfection cycle. We suggest in our user manual that users flip the item to be disinfected and re-do the disinfection cycle to cover the bottom area of the particular item.
  • How much UV dosage is being delivered? This again is a very important question that a user must ask. Though in smaller UV sterilisers this is taken care of, but due to the shadow effect, all the surfaces do not get enough dosage. To tackle this, a longer treatment time is given so that the required dose (in J/cm2) is achieved.
  • What kind of safety mechanism is deployed? The biggest drawback of UV is that it is very harmful to humans (and animals). Short term problems include skin burns, blisters and skin peeling, if exposed. So it becomes extremely necessary to deploy safety switches in order to switch off the UV source if the lid or door is opened. Many companies use mechanical switches, like those we see in a refrigerator or a printer, which can easily be bypassed by manually pressing it. (Who has not tried switching off refrigerator lights while keeping the doors opened?) This has the potential to expose children, in particular, to harmful UV light. COVICIDE Cabinet uses strategically placed sensor based safety cut-off switches, which cannot be bypassed.
  • What is the material of construction? This question is important, especially with regard to the inner lining. Most common reflective surfaces actually absorb more than they reflect. For example, stainless steel can, at best, reflect 30 per cent of UV light. This has been demonstrated by multiple experiments and such facts are easily available upon a simple Google search.
  • What is the actual usable capacity of a sterilisation box? Some manufacturers do not explicitly mention the usable area and simply refer to the product’s overall volume. This must be kept in mind while purchasing your disinfection box as you may not be able to place your belongings the way you had planned.


How it works

COVICIDE Cabinet integrates the established practice of killing pathogens using ultra violet light of 254nm wavelength, into an easy and safe-to-use box. It deploys a UV-C germicidal lamp to disable the vital cellular functions of pathogens. There is a lot of literature available on the Internet explaining the role of UV in disabling viruses and bacteria. Elaborating on how it works, Seth says, “Basically, what happens is UV-C energy is absorbed by nucleic acids inside the RNA and DNA, resulting in covalent bonds, which at the right dose can render the pathogen unable to reproduce and infect. The most effective germicidal wavelength occurs with a peak of 253.7nm, the point at which DNA absorbs UV energy the most. To make it safe for humans, we have deployed safety sensors which cut off the AC power totally from the circuit, right when the doors are opened. This safety measure does not let the COVICIDE Cabinet function when the doors are opened. Since it is not a mechanical switch, it is not easy to bypass this sensor.”

Effectiveness in combating COVID-19
COVICIDE Cabinet can be compared, more or less, with an alcohol based hand sanitiser. Just like it is important to wash one’s hands multiple times, it is important to disinfect your belongings to stay safe from the virus. However, there are certain items like face masks, currency notes, edibles, etc, that cannot be washed with soap or cleaned with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. In such a scenario, the steriliser works effectively by deactivating the viruses and bacteria present on surfaces. Since no chemicals are used, even edibles can be sterilised without worries. Besides, COVICIDE Cabinet is made up of MDF board with an inner lining of aluminium, which reflects up to 85 per cent of UV light.

Challenges faced
When asked about the challenges the team faced while developing the product, Seth says, “Developing the product was not much of a task as we have our own design, programming and manufacturing teams. Once the concept was finalised and the UV dose was calculated, we just had to integrate the UV light source and the electronics into a cabinet that would be easy to use and simple to understand by the consumer. We kept in mind the basic needs of a typical family whose members would want to safeguard themselves while running a household.”

The challenges, however, were mainly because the manufacture of the product was done during the lockdown. Since the idea was conceived after the lockdown had begun, there was a problem with regard to supply of raw material. Even though the UV light source was marked as an essential commodity, the other components required were hard to source. Seth reveals, “We did get support from local authorities for movement within the state, and that helped us in fulfilling the initial set of orders. Now things are getting back on track and slowly our production is getting more and more normal.”

Market response to the product
According to Seth, “The market response has been great. We have delivered and have active orders for more than 500 pieces. We are delighted by the support and response we have received from our customers. We have orders from businesses like salons, restaurants, laundries and offices. We have delivered customised products to all of them. Currently, we are accepting orders on our website. Soon our products will be available on Amazon and Flipkart as well.” The product is currently available on the company’s website (https://covicide.genisup.com) for ₹ 12,499.

Going forward
Genisup India is planning to focus more on services and products that are relevant to the current market. There is a whole line-up of products focused on this pandemic and also on overall healthy living. Besides, the company is actively looking for investors to scale up its business and R&D on multiple products in its line-up. It is also aiming to set up bigger facilities for mass production and to manage logistics.

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