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Spotlight on how UV light can disinfect cabins


Combined with touchless technologies, Safran Cabin is innovating solutions to help limit the spread of viruses on board aircraft. The company is currently working on developing UV light technology to disinfect cabin surfaces.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, hygiene regulations have become increasingly demanding;  Safran Cabin is focusing on providing customers with safe disinfecting systems aimed at reducing the risk of contamination on planes.

"It has been shown that the Covid-19 virus can remain on a surface for several days if not treated; increasing the risk of transmission," explains Michael Glück, Director of Business Development and Innovation at Safran Cabin. "Surfaces can be contaminated by a sneeze or simply by being touched by a contagious person. On board airplanes, touchless technologies provide an effective response, but certain surfaces can still be contaminated."

During the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Safran Cabin launched the Clean Lav initiative which includes the development of solutions to disinfect solid surfaces via UV light. Due to the high traffic in the lavatories Safran Cabin is exploring new ways of disinfecting these surfaces.

And there was UV light

UV light has very effective properties in disinfecting objects and its use is not new in air, surface and in water treatments.

"We implemented solutions for cleaning the water on board aircraft using UV light treatment; it is standard on all Boeing 787 aircraft. It maintains the level of quality during water on-boarding from airports located in certain regions of the world where drinking water may not meet quality requirements," specifies Michael Glück.

On the same wavelength

There are several types of UV light: UVA, UVB and UVC light and each wavelength has specific properties and uses.  

"UVA and UVB rays are part of the sunlight spectrum while UVCs have a wavelength that is blocked by the atmosphere's ozone layer and is not part of our natural light. UVA and UVB light treatment would take hours to effectively clean a surface and is not our ideal solution", continued Michael Glück. 

The last type, UVC, is very effective against pathogens and is already used today to disinfect surgical tools in hospitals. All known pathogens can be killed by UVC rays.

By relying on the properties of UVC light, Safran Cabin is working on innovating two products: LED UVC and FarUVC.

"These two solutions must be able to clean surfaces in a cabin in 60 seconds and destroy 99.9% of pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19), influenza, MERS-CoV, Ebola, MRSA, E-coli, salmonella and other viruses and bacteria," specifies Michael Glück.

UVC LED – Flexible and Effective

UVC LED technology allows very fast and effective disinfection of surfaces and can be easily integrated into the lavatory. The system operates at low power and low voltage, so its use has no impact on the aircraft's power supply. Despite these benefits, this wavelength may cause harmful effects if exposed directly.

"Safety is Safran Cabin's top priority when it comes to UV. To prevent any harm, we are developing an overall system architecture that ensures the safety of passengers, flight crews, cleaning crews and maintenance crews," explained Michael Glück.

Safran Cabin is exploring automatic and redundant sensing technologies to detect if a user is in the lavatory and sense if the lavatory door is closed. Once they detect an empty and closed lavatory, the UV LED can begin its work.

"Another added benefit of this type of UV, is that the UV LED solution is flexible in size in and easy to install," commented Michael Glück.

Far-UVC – Safety First

According to studies done by experts in the field, also far-UVC radiation efficiently eliminates pathogens and a limited dosage is safe and harmless for humans. Safran Cabin is also investigating far-UVC as a safe and effective way to sanitize multi-touch surfaces in aircraft cabins, specifically in the lavatory to eliminate pathogen on surfaces that passenger touch.

The far-UVC light is created not by LEDs but by excimer lamp technology that produces the disinfecting light.

"The flexibility to design different size and forms using far-UVC lights is limited compare to the UVC-LED solution," explained Glück. "However, the fact that we can use it safely in limited dosage while passengers allows an installation with a less complex architecture. We anticipate the use of this technology in more commercial applications in the near future."



Safran Cabin is con-currently developing these two technologies and is already making progress with a demonstrator integrated into aircraft cabin lavatories.

To achieve our ambitious goals, Safran Cabin is leveraging technical expertise from across the entire company engineering perimeter.