The device will be called VIKI (VIrus KIller) and can be used in schools, public offices, hospitals, dental surgeries, and businesses. It is being developed by a research group at the University of Bologna through a project financed by the Emilia-Romagna Region (Italy). It aims to remove over 99.9% of bioaerosol particles.
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The device is able to reduce the probability of transmission of coronavirus infection in a closed environment by inactivating airborne droplets contaminated with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic. It does so with cold plasma technology. It will be called VIKI (VIrus KIller) and is being developed by a research group at the University of Bologna: the starting point is an already developed prototype capable of inactivating 99.9% of the bacteria contained in a bioaerosol in just 0.3 seconds.
A first study - which researchers published in the "Special Issue on Advanced Applications of Plasmas in Life Sciences" of the Plasma Processes and Polymers journal - shows that total inactivation results also occur for bioaerosols with the purified RNA of SARS-CoV-2.
The project, financed by the Italian Emilia-Romagna region, is led by the CIRI-MAM (in English: Interdepartmental Centre for Industrial Research of the University of Bologna, which operates in the Advanced Mechanics and Materials sectors) through the Industrial Plasma Applications Research Group. The project is coordinated by Professor Vittorio Colombo, who collaborates with the group of Professor Vittorio Sambri, Director of the Microbiology Operating Unit of AUSL Romagna (the Romagna region’s Local Health Unit Division) and member of the Department of Specialist, Diagnostic and Experimental Medicine at the University of Bologna. Alongside the scholars, several companies such as Alintel, AlmaPlasma, GLIP, RubensLuciano, and Iso Engineering have joined forces, with the aim of achieving the first pilot production of VIKI by the first half of 2021.
"We want to create a device capable of significantly reducing the probability of coronavirus transmission in indoor environments that are intended for work or service activities", explains Vittorio Colombo. "The results of this project will make it possible to develop a range of products for use in schools, public offices, hospitals, dental surgeries, and commercial activities on an industrial scale " he added.
The device acts by sucking air from the environment in which it is located and treating it with cold plasma discharges. This is produced by applying an electric field to a flow of contaminated air and bioaerosol, thus generating a series of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS) capable of destroying microorganisms, including viruses.
"The first tests with viruses were scheduled by the AUSL Romagna by the end of September 2020. In those tests, Colombo explained, “we believe that the interaction of the plasma directly with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 could induce a destabilization of its structure and therefore a reduction, until it disappears completely, of its infective capacity".
The objective is to reach a sanitizing capacity of over 99.9% and then move on to the prototype scale-up phase to adapt it to mass-production in the near future.
1.Martines, Emilio. (2020). Special Issue "Plasma Technology for Biomedical Applications". Applied Sciences. 10. 1524. 10.3390/app10041524
2. Press release University of Bologna. A cold plasma device to sanitise the air from SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. UNIBO Magazine. 24th September 2020 (only in Italian).