Clemson students design prototype device to combat COVID-19 at grocery stores

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CLEMSON, SC (WSPA)–As grocery shopping is still a necessity during the pandemic, two Clemson University students have designed a device that could kill viruses on the things you buy, including COVID-19.

Although school is out, the students have been hard at work designing a prototype ultraviolet light (UVC) box. They hope it will protect grocery shoppers and become the next big thing.

Some may say food and groceries are things we can’t live without, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With all the hands touching grocery items, the two students designed a prototype device that could combat the virus.

“I’m a cashier at a grocery store and I kind of just wanting to come up with a way to protect cashiers since we’re touching a lot of products,” said Carleigh Coffin, Clemson University student.

They hope the box will be placed on conveyor belts at checkout lanes located in many stores.

“This UVC light actually deactivates about 99.9 % of bacteria and viruses. Basically it’s similar structured to an x-ray belt at the airport. But instead, inside the box structure, there’s going to be a UVC bulb that actually once the items pass through, the UVC rays are going to hit the surface and deactivate any bacteria or viruses on it,” Coffin said.

They said their research shows– after 10 seconds UVC lights tend to kill bacteria and viruses that are about six inches away.

Leaders said UVC is a type of ultraviolet light that destroys genetic material inside viruses and other microbes, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

They birthed the idea as part of a research program under the direction of their bio-engineering professor. They’ve been following strict guidelines from health officials and other researchers.

“As a faculty we said there’s a lot of needs here in the U.S., and that’s when they came up with these cool ideas,” said Dr. Delphine Dean, Professor of Bio-engineering at Clemson University.

The students said the box will stand one and a half to two feet tall. They believe they can make each device for about $100 in parts, with the UVC lamp as the most expensive thing.

“I’m estimating that it won’t take us very long to build it since we know what’s it’s going to look like,” said Ashlyn Soule, Clemson University student.

Although there’s still some work to be done, they hope lives will be saved because they thought outside the box.

“There will be other viruses such as the flu, and common cold and stuff… will always going to be around. So I believe that having this in grocery stores year-around for many years, will help stop the spread of many viruses and protect many people in the future,” Soule said.

Right now, the students are still waiting on materials to arrive so they can build the product. They said after that, it will go through a series of testing. They hope the device will be in many stores in the near future.

School leaders said the National Academies has reported that UVC probably kills the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, while cautioning that more study is needed. They also said UVC destroys related coronaviruses, including the one that causes the MERS.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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