LITTLE ROCK AFB, Ark - Over the last several months, the world changed dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. American families were crushed with the responsibility of the new "normal" wearing face masks, practicing at least six feet of social distancing and keeping social activities to a minimal level. While it is becoming easier to manage these new expectations, other preventative measures are being tested and discovered, adding to the health and safety of people across the globe.
Recently, the 189th Airlift Wing in coordination with the wing's innovation team started implementing the Krypton Light Disinfection system. Working with FAR UV Technologies, a Missouri-based medical technology company, the wing plans to install 50 UV lights throughout the campus and eventually innovate ways to utilize the light sources inside aircraft. The company was awarded a one million dollar contract to initiate the project with the wing. The goal of this partnership is to eventually encourage other units to purchase the same light system through accelerated means. As of now, the 189th AW is the first unit in the Department of Defense to utilize it.
"About a month ago, we were running up on a deadline for wings to submit innovation ideas for a special round of government funding called special business innovation research," said Maj. Justin Fitzpatrick, the 189th AW innovation officer. "We weren't planning on going in for that, but the innovation team cold-called the company and they got back to us. We seized the opportunity and used what they already did along with our work to put this opportunity together. We were able to put this project together quickly because of our close contacts with the Air National Guard innovation directors and our rapid wing innovation structure."
The lights being installed may sound like a process already implemented in some facilities, but a difference in the amount of light used is what allows FAR UV Technologies' product to stand out. According to Far UV Technologies, this groundbreaking technology safely and effectively kills airborne or surface pathogens in occupied locations. This means that while on duty, Airmen throughout the wing will have constant, additional protective measures in place to keep them safe and healthy.
"This will add an extra layer of protection in addition to our current risk mitigation strategies," said Lt. Col. Thomas DeGraff III, 189th AW senior flight surgeon and member of the Team DUCIMUS Think Tank group. "I see this as increasing exposure time to in-person interactions, decreasing the odds of viral exposure, and decreasing the risk of infection. We don't have the medical peer-reviewed data to back that up 100 percent, but we do know that it kills pathogens and doesn't cause cancer or cataracts in humans."
The krypton light is a measure of ultraviolet light designed to eliminate surface and air pathogens while remaining safe for humans. At 222 nanometers, the light does not penetrate human and animal skin or eyes, making it safe for everyday use. According to Dr. David Brenner, the company's safety subject-matter-expert from Columbia University Medical Center, the lower exposure range is the key difference between the Krypton system and traditional UV sanitization systems, which can operate at up to 254 nanometers, damaging sensitive cells in the epidermis, used in occupied environments.
The product potential is nearly endless. The application can be applied to offices, medical facilities, transportation and much more, making it ideal for the wing with regards to versatility and utilization.
"Our advances represent a quantum leap forward in applied science because of our partnerships and represent a giant step for all of DoD," said Fitzpatrick.