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New UV light sanitation device designed in Saco

The yet-to-be-named device is a research-backed method for sanitizing tools and other objects in places like schools and workspaces.

SACO, Maine — Sales for UV light sanitizing devices have skyrocketed. Some products that are for sale right now claim to kill 99.9% of harmful viruses, germs, and bacteria in seconds, but experts say there is no basis these types of products deliver on those claims.

Here in Maine, however, there's a new device in the works, backed by research, from the Saco Industrial Innovation Center that could be used to clean objects in schools, workspaces, and so much more. They've just received a big boost from the Maine Technology Institute.

UV light has been used for years to kill viruses on a large scale in places like hospitals and subways.

Some small devices are being sold for as little as $40 to a few hundred dollars, and that has Jim Malley worried. 

"The danger here is to give that person a false sense of security now," he said. 

Because of the pandemic, there's a need to apply this technology to more places, like schools and offices.

So Malley, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of New Hampshire, is working with the team at the Saco Industrial Innovation Center to fulfill that need.

"Wiping things down isn't always the most effective means," Louis Waterhouse from the Saco Industrial Innovation Center said.

Waterhouse says they are working to create a safe, easy to use conveyor type sanitation device for items like people's cell phones or shared materials.

"We've got a unit in the Center of Technology in Biddeford, they're going to actually use it to disinfect their tools," he explained. "Picture a tool there's lots of little crevasses and holes and things like that so wiping it down is not going to be as effective."

The device uses a mesh conveyor belt to transport items through the light, and Waterhouse says it looks similar to the belt you place your items on when you go through security at the airport.

They are trying to source all materials and manpower to make these un-named devices in Maine.

"it's important [for] us to keep it local."

And with the help of a $25,000 grant from the Maine Technology Institute – they are closer to bringing all of this to fruition.

With one prototype down – they are on their way to building six more.

And creating dozens of jobs.

"Keep the work here in Maine," Waterhouse said.

The Saco Industrial Innovation Center, where this UV Light Device is being tested and produced – was founded at the start of this year to serve as a place for startups to access workspace for free.

The team is also working with Bowdoin College to research and develop this device.

Right now it's estimated the devices will cost somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 to make.