Sanitize healthcare facilities of unwanted microorganisms and other harmful substances in several seconds? It may sound utopian, but soon, thanks to cooperation between Czech and Slovenian researchers, it could be common practice. Scientists from the Centre of Polymer Systems of Tomas Bata University in Zlín (TBU) and the Jožef Stefan Institute (JSI) in Ljubljana have built a device that effectively generates ultraviolet (UV) radiation. TBU and JSI jointly obtained a European patent for the invention at the end of 2018.
According to one of the inventors, Marián Lehocký: “When you use a common source of UV radiation, the sterilization procedure takes a few dozens of minutes; the device that we have developed is able to sterilize the environment in several seconds. It is a breakthrough discovery in the sphere of sterilization.” The device may be used also in other areas, for example, in the polymer hardening process. “Our device needs a ten times shorter period to complete the sterilization procedure than common sources of radiation,” adds Mr. Lehocký.
With the use of the newly presented device the UV radiation originates in a discharge in a tube. The advantage of this is that the source produces radiation of constant intensity, while in case of commonly available sources the intensity of radiation tends to fall off with time. “The device would have never been developed without the excellent infrastructure of the Centre of Polymer Systems,” pointed out another of the authors, Vladimír Sedlařík. Petr Humpolíček and a doctoral student also participated in the development of the device. Industrial production of the device is currently under negotiation. A follow-up application research has been initiated in cooperation with the Slovenian institute.
The good news from research may be inspiring also for future students. “This year we are launching a new Bachelor’s course focused on biomaterials at the Faculty of Technology. Successful graduates of this degree course may participate in similar research projects in future,” says Mr. Lehocký.
“The University has gained three patent protections in Europe over the last six years including the device that generates UV radiation; and other patent applications are being processed,” adds Ms. Dana Kreizlová from the Patent and Licence Office of the Technology Transfer Centre of Tomas Bata University in Zlín, who – as a European patent officer – deals with patent applications submitted to the European Patent Office. Nevertheless, the authors of the new patent are for the first time experts from the Centre of Polymer Systems. In 2016 the University obtained a patent also in the USA.