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Viruses have a much harder time reproducing in the summer. This is nothing new. However, while it was previously assumed that this was due to higher temperatures, UV radiation is now increasingly coming into focus. The Tübingen scientists HHN professor Jennifer Niessner and UKT professor Michael Schindler have already demonstrated that UV radiation can render coronaviruses harmless that are located on solid surfaces.

However, there is no such proof yet for viruses that are transmitted via the air, i.e., aerosols. But it is precisely this mode of transmission that continues to severely restrict public life in Germany. For this reason, engineers from Heilbronn University and virologists from Tübingen University Hospital, both in Germany, are now researching the possibility of also killing these viruses with ultraviolet C (UVC) radiation in an interdisciplinary project.

An alternative to conventional air purification technologies

To this end, Prof. Niessner’s team is designing and building an aerosol test facility that will be integrated into the sterile bench of a high-security laboratory at the Tübingen University Hospital. The project partners there, led by Prof. Schindler, are using infectious SARS-CoV-2 viruses to test for the first time “whether and with which UVC irradiation dose coronaviruses can be inactivated in aerosols.”

The currently explored technologies using UVC radiation could, in fact, be another technological building block to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, the researchers explain. They could also provide an energy-efficient and quiet alternative to air purification technologies used today, such as high-performance filters.

Goodbye lockdown?

As a result, public life in schools, kindergartens and colleges could pick up speed with UVC units. Likewise, personal contacts between people in offices, hospitals and medical practices, in administrative and production facilities, trade, or in hotels, restaurants and cultural institutions could become safer.

The “Testaerosols” project is being funded by the German state of Baden-Württemberg with almost €1.6 million. The German institutions involved are the University of Stuttgart, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Tübingen University Hospital and Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences.

Additional articles on coronavirus and aerosols can be found here.