Healthcare

Signify: Future of coronavirus fight is…mercury lamps

A hospital corridor with blue light illuminated the ceiling.
Rondolat envisions a booming market for upper-room disinfection, in which air-borne viruses are killed by UV-C light from mercury lamps mounted safely above and invisible to occupants.

SIGNIFY is blowing the dust off a traditional technology in the fight against coronavirus: mercury vapour lamps. 

Company chief Eric Rondolat says the medium-pressure light source alone has the potency to kill the virus rapidly.

He envisions a booming market for upper-room disinfection, in which air-borne viruses are killed by UV-C light from mercury lamps mounted safely above and invisible to occupants. 

Rondolat said this application ‘wasn’t doable’ with LED. ‘You’d have to use so many LEDs it would be impractical.’

Signify chief executive Eric Rondolat addresses a press conference
Signify CEO Eric Rondolat envisions a booming market for upper-room disinfection, in which air-borne viruses are killed by UV-C light from mercury lamps mounted safely above and invisible to occupants.

Conversely, the company’s medium-pressure mercury vapour lamp – which emits UV-C at a wavelength of 254 nanometres – has been shown to kill the coronavirus ‘in seconds’ by scientists at Boston University.

‘We believe this is a fabulous potential moving forward,’ Rondolat told Lux

‘We’re cognisant that this technology can help the fight against Covid-19 so we’ll sell the light source to other lighting companies for use in their products’.

He expects the buoyant market to continue after the crisis has abated, as people will still want their spaces to be free of viruses. 

‘The world will change its perspective on spaces where people gather’. 

Rondolat says the UV-C lamp is a potentially harmful product so ‘it needs to be used in the right way. 

Signify’s medium-pressure mercury vapour lamp – which emits UV-C at a wavelength of 254 nanometres – has been shown to kill the coronavirus ‘in seconds’ by scientists at Boston University.

‘For 35 years we’ve had the technology so we know how to use it in situations so that it is safe.’

He says the company adds sensors so that the lighting system shuts down should the presence of people be detected.

Other applications include disinfection tunnels for supermarket trolleys and baskets, chambers for retailers to disinfect clothes from changing rooms and cabinets to clean tools and medical equipment. 

Signify is also working on UV-C robots to patrol shopping malls and stores, hospitals, schools and offices overnight.

He expects competition, including from China, but says the manufacture of suitable lamps isn’t easy because of the very clear glass that’s required. 

Rondolat also revealed that Signify is researching three other disinfection technologies using light: far-UV and two other spectra outside the UV region.