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His plane-disinfecting invention did not take off—till COVID-19 hit

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Seven years earlier than the coronavirus pandemic hit, Arthur Kreitenberg, a Los Angeles orthopedic surgeon, got here up with an invention in his basement to shortly disinfect an airplane cabin utilizing ultraviolet gentle.

He even purchased airplane seats from the airline graveyard within the Mojave desert to check his thought.

But the thought didn’t catch on shortly. His spouse joked that Kreitenberg’s tinkering within the basement was “cheaper than having a girlfriend.” At the various aviation commerce exhibits and conferences he attended to pitch his invention, few confirmed curiosity.

COVID-19 modified all of that.

Honeywell International, the multinational conglomerate with $37 billion in annual gross sales, introduced this month that it’s teaming up with Kreitenberg to construct the UV invention and distribute it to the world’s airways. The firm plans to construct greater than 100 items by the top of July, with manufacturing growing within the following months.

The invention, initially named the GermFalcon, appears to be like like an airline beverage cart geared up with two mechanical arms that stretch out over the airplane’s seats like a pair of wings. The arms emit UV gentle because the cart is pushed down the aisle.

Kreitenberg’s son, Elliot, who gave up his basement batting cage for his dad’s invention, has teamed together with his father to get the GermFalcon off the bottom.

The contraption can disinfect a cabin in about 10 minutes at a value of about $10 per airplane, based on Honeywell, which is advertising the machine because the Honeywell UV Cabin System.

It’s not a novel idea. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s database exhibits greater than 30 patents filed since 1995 that suggest utilizing UV gentle to disinfect water, air, surgical tools, cellphone screens and catheters, amongst different issues.

Medical consultants notice that UV gentle is already used to disinfect hospital working rooms, and two of Southern California’s swankiest lodges, the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hilton, not too long ago introduced plans to make use of UV gentle to disinfect their rooms in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

But consultants level out that after an airplane cabin has been disinfected, a passenger contaminated with COVID-19 can sit down and jeopardize the well being of most of the fliers.

The greatest threat of being contaminated is from shut contact with one other individual, mentioned Peter Chin-Hong, a professor of medicine and an infectious disease specialist at UC San Francisco. Using UV gentle to disinfect an airplane cabin “could possibly help,” he mentioned. “But UV light is not the end-all and be-all.”

Philip Barruel, the biosafety program supervisor for laboratory analysis at UC Davis, agrees, saying UV gentle might not attain far sufficient into creases and corners of an airplane cabin to kill the virus.

“There are a lot of unknowns about this virus,” he mentioned.

Kreitenberg acknowledges that his invention will solely scale back the possibilities of getting contaminated by germs left on the surfaces of an airline cabin and will not make flying completely secure.

Still, he factors out that UV gentle can kill a number of sorts of germs, with the potential to assist stem the unfold of influenza and different ailments.

Neither Honeywell or Kreitenberg would disclose the monetary phrases of the partnership or the worth they’d cost airways to purchase or lease the UV cabin system.

Honeywell started in early June to satisfy with airways and display the UV cabin system however has but to get a dedication from any service.

“The initial reaction from airlines has been very positive,” mentioned Honeywell spokesman Adam Kress. “We believe this product has great potential at airlines worldwide, but we’re starting in-person demonstrations with domestic carriers.”

It all started with a volleyball.

While attending his daughter Zoe’s school volleyball matches, Kreitenberg seen that throughout the H1N1 outbreak of 2009 the gamers did not shake palms to scale back the possibilities of spreading the virus. But all of the gamers touched the identical volleyball.

Inspired by means of UV gentle to disinfect working rooms, Kreitenberg invented a tool—dubbed the Germ Ninja—to shortly disinfect the balls by passing UV gentle over them. The invention was so profitable it was used within the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Not lengthy after that, Elliot Kreitenberg flew house from school, making an attempt to sleep together with his face resting on the fold-down tray. A fellow flier warned Elliot concerning the germs on the tray, reminding him that it was flu season. Elliot relayed the story to his father, and the thought for utilizing UV gentle to disinfect industrial planes was hatched.

A enterprise main from Skidmore College, Elliot wished to run his personal firm. After some analysis and encouragement from a university professor, he determined to enter enterprise together with his father to promote the GermFalcon. Elliot grew to become president and co-founder together with his father of Dimer LLC, which is called for a part of the method that kills viruses with UV gentle.

The father-son group estimated they visited as much as 20 commerce exhibits and conferences, hoping to promote the thought—with no success. One of the challenges was making an attempt to speak instantly with an airline government who had the authority to approve the acquisition.

Executives at Virgin America, the California-based service launched by Sir Richard Branson, expressed curiosity within the UV cabin system in 2014, however that sale fell by way of when Alaska Airlines acquired Virgin America in 2016.

“It seemed as though every conversation we had with airlines or people visiting our booth at trade shows were interested,” Elliot Kreitenberg, 28, mentioned. “Somewhere along the way, it got lost.”

The firm stayed afloat over time due to investments, most of which got here from medical doctors.

Once the coronavirus pandemic reached the U.S. early this 12 months, the Kreitenbergs supplied to donate the usage of the GermFalcon to disinfect planes that have been flying passengers in from abroad. A handful of airways at Los Angeles International Airport accepted the provide, which drew the eye of some cable tv information shops. It additionally received the eye of a number of potential enterprise companions, together with Honeywell.

Elliot Kreitenberg mentioned they agreed to accomplice with Honeywell as a result of it has the “infrastructure and the footprint in the airline industry to overcome barriers of entry” that they’d run into.

The father-son group just isn’t completed but. They at the moment are engaged on a model of the GermFalcon that can be utilized in lecture rooms, places of work, buses and practice stations, amongst different places. They name it the UV Hammer.


EU aviation company tells airways to disinfect planes


©2020 Los Angeles Times
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His plane-disinfecting invention did not take off—till COVID-19 hit (2020, June 24)
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