UCI physicists say Blu-ray diode lasers could be used to help sterilize COVID-19

"You could imagine making a mask that has a UV-C battery-powered lamp in it that is cleaning the air that you breathe," a UCI professor said.
IRVINE, Cal. (KABC) -- Physicists at the University of California Irvine said the next weapon against COVID-19 may be sitting in your home inside your Blu-ray Disc player.

Chris Barty, a professor of physics and astronomy at UCI, is leading the research.

"The Blu-ray diode laser itself, the one that's in your player, doesn't kill the virus, doesn't sterilize the virus. But modifying it with non-linear optics, with something that laser people do, would allow to create light that does kill the virus," Barty said.

Barty was not not talking about the scary beam coming out of a big cylinder like in the movies.

"There are ways to make lasers on the microchip scale," Barty said.

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The UCI professor said adding a crystal to this compact Blu-ray diode laser makes UV-C light.

Barty said research showed UV-C light can sterilize COVID-19 and poses little risk to humans. He says that's because UV-C light doesn't rapidly penetrate our skin and cause damage like UV-A and UV-B lights.

"I'm not somebody who has done that test, so I can't validate that that test is right or not right. That's just part of the literature that is out there," Barty said.

Also out there was the material for this: Barty said Blu-ray laser diodes were readily available and cheap thanks to the entertainment industry.

He went over the possible practical uses of the technology.

"Put into the air conditioning duct to clean the air as it comes by, you could imagine if you make these things cheap enough, you might -- instead of walking through a magnetometer at a sports station -- you would walk through a UV-C portal," Barty said. "If this whole package is really this big, you could imagine making a mask that has a UV-C battery-powered lamp in it that is cleaning the air that you breathe."

The goal is to know by fall 2020 whether this small piece of technology can help us return to normalcy in the middle of a pandemic.
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