- Along with disinfectant, the person is exposed to hot air for 15 seconds
- The disinfectant tunnel will hit the market by second week of June
- Ultra Violet C light used in the process is not harmful to humans: Expert
New Delhi: Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, disinfectant tunnels are being used at various places, including several farmers’ markets, police stations and other public places. It is a cubical structure which sprays disinfectant mist on the person/object passing through it to destroy viruses present on the external surfaces. However, recently experts have highlighted that it is not an effective measure to kill SARS-Cov-2 and other viruses. Therefore, in a bid to provide solutions for effective sanitisation amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur has claimed to have developed an advanced disinfectant tunnel to effectively sanitise external surfaces at public places.
According to Dr. Avinash Kumar Agarwal, Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT-Kanpur, who led the project,
Till now, for spraying, the disinfectant tunnels were using sodium hypochlorite solution, a chlorine compound often used as a disinfectant or a bleaching agent, which is harmful to the eyes and mucus membrane. Also spraying disinfectant has not been proved to be a 100 per cent efficient in killing the virus. So we started looking at how to tackle the virus effectively and without affecting the human body. We came up with an effective fully automated disinfectant tunnel fitted with ultrasonic sensors that has two chambers and uses a three-step treatment method for removing the virus.
He further said that the idea of this disinfectant tunnel is that while travelling from home to work or any other place, there is a high possibility that one may pick up the virus while transiting from public transport. But it can clean the virus only from the outer surfaces and so if the virus has gone inside the body, then disinfection is not possible, Dr. Agarwal added.
IIT-Kanpur’s Disinfectant Tunnel Uses Three Processes For Sanitisation
While explaining the functioning of the disinfectant tunnel, Dr. Agarwal said that the first process is spraying of disinfectant on the person who enters in Chamber 1. He said,
The disinfectant can be safer alternatives to sodium hypochlorite solution like the diluted solution of Dettol or an herbal solution made of neem leaf, water, alum and camphor or any other solution that is effective can be used. A tank of 100-litre capacity has been attached with Chamber 1 to store disinfectant solution.
For the next process, the person needs to enter into the second chamber where they will be exposed to 70 degrees centigrade hot air for about 15 seconds. According to Dr. Agarwal, a lot of viruses get neutralised due to this thermal shock. The third step is exposing the person to ‘far Ultra Violet C (UVC) light’ in the same chamber for about 10-15 seconds. Dr. Agarwal explains,
UVC light is a safer version of Ultra Violet light and is safe for the human body but has proved to very effective against viruses. Also, we have kept the option of switching it off in case a person has some sensitivity towards it.
The team is now working on adding a thermal imaging camera to this tunnel in the coming week. This camera would report the temperature of the person even before they enter the tunnel.
He further said that a person spends less than a minute in the tunnel as the chambers take 20 to 25 seconds each. “By this calculation, we assume that two people would be able to get disinfected within a minute which comes up to 120 people per hour,” he said.
According to Dr. Agarwal, the final cost of the tunnel has not been decided yet but it will be under Rs. 2 lakh. He said that the tunnel is in the final stages of approvals and user testing and will ready for hitting the markets by mid of June. He said that while the technology and design was developed by IIT-Kanpur’s Technopark, a central government’s initiative for academic-industry interaction in the field of innovation, the structure of the tunnel was built by Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO) based on IIT-Kanpur’s design. The whole process has taken about 30 days.
Lieutenant colonel Pawan Kumar Dubey, General Manager (Marketing), ALIMCO shared that the company is happy to have developed this tunnel in collaboration with IIT Kanpur and waiting to test on coronavirus and for final approvals from ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) and other authorities. He said,
We are hopeful that as soon as efficacy test is done we shall be able to manufacture it from our factories. We are still conducting various tests to identify any hurdles or issues in its functioning.
While commenting on the disinfectant tunnel developed by the IIT Kanpur, Dr. Raman Dhara, Additional Professor, Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH), Hyderabad pointed out that while the initiative may help in sanitisation, extreme caution needs to be taken in selecting disinfectants to be sprayed. He cautioned that even a slight increase in the concentration of disinfectant in the solution to be sprayed can cause damage of eyes and skin of the person passing through the tunnel.