Zodiac Aerospace has filed an ingenious patent for a comprehensive UV lighting system which would cleanse the whole of an aircraft cabin while the aircraft is unoccupied—between flights or on an overnight.
In the patent—one of AeroPatent’s recent discoveries—Zodiac proposes a number of UV lighting combinations which could do the work of thoroughly disinfecting the aircraft interior. The system described would effectively disinfect both the air in the cabin and cabin surfaces, textiles, etc.
As with any frequently used public space, aircraft cabin hygiene poses unique challenges for airlines and is cause of concern for the public. Issues of hygiene and the spread of bacteria are inherent to any public transportation system. But, likely because of aviation’s popularity, we see plenty of stories raising questions of hygiene on aircraft.
There are standard cleaning practices, and cleansers which address some of these issues, but ultraviolet light can quickly kill virtually all bacteria and pathogens.
Boeing’s self-cleaning lavatory concept, which won a Crystal Cabin Award this year suggests that even with relatively brief exposure, ultraviolet light can kill up to 99.99% of pathogens.
“The light may kill or otherwise disrupt bacteria, viruses, or airborne-based illnesses,” Zodiac states.
Zodiac proposes both LED and OLED solutions, including “flexible organic OLEDs” which could adapt to cabin contours.
“[I]t is possible for the OLED to be a flexible light, such that it can be bent to accommodate and/or fit with respect to a curved or non-standard surface. The OLEDs may be provided in strips, sheets, or as single point light sources,” Zodiac writes.
Zodiac also addresses the practical issues of “light” cleaning—that UV light strong enough to kill all those pathogens is also harmful to humans exposed to it, with risks of blindness and carcinomas.
To address these risks, Zodiac proposes a number of fail-safe safety solutions for each of the potential scenarios in operation, designed to work only when the cabin is completely empty. Automatic shut-offs would be a fail-safe, if the cabin door is open at any point.
“The one or more disinfection lights may be installed on a temporary structure, such as a roll-out mat or cart or other appropriate structure. The safety system may be a rotating or sliding panel, and external panel that may only activate the cabin disinfection system when a cabin door is closed, or any other appropriate system,” Zodiac writes.
We’ve seen what light can do to beautify the cabin, and the programmable lighting in the works which could further enhance the passenger experience. But what could be more beneficial to passengers than lighting protecting them from contagion. Of course, it’s not a this or that proposition—we could have both.
Research on whether UV light could stamp out bedbugs is ongoing, but it would be a fine thing for airlines if UV would work on that pesky problem too.
Last week, I pointed out that it’s important to remember the intellectual property assets of aerospace companies, including manufacturers like Zodiac Aerospace—and the irreplaceable value of the engineers and creatives responsible for the innovations patented.
This is a fine example of that.
This UV cabin disinfection proposal is an elegant solution to a pesky problem which could be adopted with relative ease. I hope we see it fly soon.
Every week, hundreds of new aerospace patent applications are published, revealing otherwise unknown technology that is intriguing, exciting and potentially important.
These patents can be notoriously difficult to find and interpret because patent language is, well, tiresome to say the least.
What an engineer calls a ‘wing’, a patent attorney might translate to a ‘lift generation device’. Consider a whole patent document in that language and it becomes time consuming to find, read and understand.
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