VOn the outside, the Edeka market in the Hamburg district of Barmbek looks inconspicuous. It is located in a new development area on the area of a former freight station and is a typical local supplier where residents stock up on goods for everyday use. Internally, however, a system has recently been working with which the grocery trade is breaking new ground. It is supposed to disinfect the air with ultraviolet UV-C rays and thus reduce the risk of infections with Sars-CoV-2. “The Corona issue is a common thread running through society and retail at the moment,” says the store’s managing director, Dirk-Uwe Clausen. The technology can help to protect customers and employees.
For the pilot has Edeka worked with the lighting technology manufacturer Signify, which was called Philips Lighting until two years ago. At a height of 3.20 meters to 3.50 meters, its experts installed a good 30 UV-C systems on walls and concrete columns that irradiate the upper airspace of the supermarket. If viruses get there with the natural circulation of the air in the room, the radiation from the devices renders them harmless. Although this is only a supplement and in no way a replacement for masks, distance and other hygiene rules, it was said on Tuesday at an online presentation by Edeka and Signify. If the system turns out to be “suitable for the masses”, Edeka also wants to use it in other markets, said a company spokeswoman.
Neutralized in six seconds
UV-C is radiation that is invisible to the human eye. Because the atmosphere filters it out of the light of the sun, it does not occur naturally on earth. Viruses have therefore not developed any defense mechanisms against them, which is why artificially generated radiation damages their genetic makeup. However, the rays can also be harmful to humans. For use in rooms such as the Edeka store, the light sources are therefore shielded by slats and other technology so that their radiation does not fall on customers or employees. The load is also continuously measured, emphasized Christian Goebel, the responsible manager at Signify. “As long as a customer doesn’t bring a ladder and climb around the store with it, there’s no danger.” He kept a low profile on the exact costs of the system. Most recently, the company had spoken of “well under 1000 euros” per device.
The disinfection effect of the UV-C technology has in principle been known for a long time. Treadmills in industry are cleaned with it, and it is also widespread in hospitals, for example to make operating rooms sterile. Signify has had Boston University confirmed that the technology is also suitable for tackling Sars-CoV-2. If the viruses are exposed to radiation for six seconds, they are 99 percent neutralized, they say. Almost 100 percent can be achieved after 25 seconds. For this to happen in the case of the Edeka store, enough viruses have to get into the upper part of the room that is covered by the emitters. The natural movement of the air is sufficient for this, for example when customers move around the store, emphasized Goebel. Smaller fans might also help.
Signify has high hopes for technology and has recently expanded its range of systems. In addition to systems like those in the Edeka store, this also includes mobile, free-standing UV-C lights that can be driven into a hotel room or used to disinfect surfaces in public transport such as buses and trains. Some of the technology comes from the specialist GLA, which the group took over this year. Signify, headquartered in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, sees itself as the world market leader for lighting and has around 39,000 employees. A total of 380,000 people work for the Edeka association, Germany‘s largest grocery retailer.