By Judith Rubin
Christie’s recent investment in far UVC light technology should come as welcome news for museums, dark rides, queue lines, theaters, cruise ships and retail/dining and the network of designers and suppliers that serve them, as well as the visitor community.
Far UVC is a type of ultraviolet light. Research indicates that far UVC light has the power to disable SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses – airborne, or on surfaces – and, moreover, that it can be used continuously during operating hours without apparent danger to humans. Christie parent company, lighting manufacturer Ushio Inc., has a proprietary interest and six years of R&D in the lamp technology, which Christie is currently rolling out to the industry in the form of Christie® CounterAct™.
CounterAct Configurator. All photos courtesy Christie.
CounterAct uses Ushio’s existing Care222® lamp which was designed specifically for medical facilities and is already in use at several hospitals, in addition to schools, in Japan.
A CounterAct unit looks something like a smoke detector – if a smoke detector were 14” in diameter – and is designed to be installed in the manner of a recessed lighting fixture in ceilings. It has an indicator glow, but otherwise the amount of light it emits is very minor and not a factor in a room’s lighting scheme. It has a runtime of about 3,000 hours.
According to what we’ve learned from Christie and the supporting research, CounterAct harnesses far UVC light to work as a continuous enemy of viruses, rendering pathogens non-contagious by damaging them at the DNA and RNA level, while not posing any detectable risk to people. It has been documented to be effective not only against the novel coronavirus but other harmful viruses – offering potential protection against today’s pandemic and tomorrow’s as well. “It doesn’t differentiate between viruses; all of them are negatively impacted by UV,” says Brent Peckover, Director of Industrial Applications at Christie.
Bryan Boehme, Christie’s Executive Director of Sales & Business Development, Enterprise, Americas, is enthusiastic about the promise that this technology holds for indoor facilities and attractions. He reports that Christie is already consulting with a number of early CounterAct adopters. The results may help establish new operating models for facilities to reopen or expand capacity while substantially lowering the risk of COVID-19 infection. “We’re really excited about the opportunity for entertainment and theme park customers. They want to do their best to reassure guests and to prevent people from getting the virus at their sites, and we’re hopeful to see it roll out in many venues this year,” says Boehme.
“How much you need varies on space configuration and power,” says Peckover. “We have designed a configurator to help calculate the number of units.” Peckover also indicated that the technology and product meet photobiological standards for conformance recognition from UL, ACGIH®, the CE mark and others.
The first wave of adoption in entertainment spaces can be expected to be primarily retrofits, but Boehme expects that Christie’s far UVC products will become part of initial design discussions for future projects.
A different kind of disinfecting UV
The wavelength makes the difference. Far UVC light has a wavelength of 222 nanometers (nm – 1 billionth of a meter) as opposed to conventional UV light, which has a wavelength of 254 nm. Conventional UV is already employed as a disinfectant in hospitals, subway cars and other spaces, but conventional UV is not safe for human exposure, and therefore can only run when the spaces are not occupied, meaning that pathogens can build up between uses.
CounterAct employs Ushio’s proprietary filter that attenuates wavelengths greater than 230nm. This is important because, as Peckover says, “Not all 222nm light is created equal.” He explained that current 222nm production methods generate small amounts of UVC light greater than 230nm. The filter, therefore, provides a safety factor for use in occupied spaces by keeping the wavelength to 222nm. A recent Christie whitepaper provides further details: https://www.christiedigital.com/globalassets/help-center/whitepapers/documents/christie-counteract-with-care222-whitepaper.pdf.
Christie and others have been studying far UVC light for several years and testing it in labs to assess its safety. A research project of the Columbia University Zuckerman Institute started out several years ago, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, to identify ways of reducing opportunistic infections in hospital settings. Studies conducted by Dr David Brenner, PhD, a key figure in the continuing research, and others have shown that far UVC light cannot penetrate the ocular tear layer or skin stratum corneum.
Brenner, a professor of radiation biophysics and environmental health sciences and director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University, has gone on the record about the efficacy studies done to determine the safety and effectiveness of using far UVC light technology against airborne virus particles, with encouraging results. Aerosols are of great concern in COVID transmission with virus particles able to remain viable in the air for several hours and now believed to be a major cause of infection.
While tests have shown the CounterAct technology to act rapidly and effectively, its presence doesn’t omit the need for contactless solutions that protect guests from having to touch surfaces such as counters and interactive screens, for instance. “CounterAct is an added layer of defense,” says Peckover. “You still need to take these other precautions.”
This application of far UVC technology could be a significant factor in getting the themed entertainment industry back on track. “It’s being received with a great deal of interest as something that can enable a return to regular activities and protect people,” says Boehme.
Inspiring awareness and confidence on the part of guests will be part of the equation, in order to bring audiences back in healthy numbers. Peckover noted that Christie is working on strong branding initiatives for CounterAct to be recognized by the client community and build reassurance and trust. We’ll be watching for those early adopters – ideally, they’ll include some of Christie’s major entertainment partners.
For more information about CounterAct and far UVC technology, including links to third-party research, visit the Christie CounterAct landing page at https://www.christiedigital.com/commercial-uv-disinfection/.
Meet Brent Peckover
Brent Peckover is Director of Industrial Applications at Christie, focusing on launching innovative ideas outside of traditional markets and applications. He is spearheading the design and development activities for Christie® CounterAct™ with the patented Care222® commercial ultraviolet disinfection fixture.
He has more than 20 years of experience designing, building, and installing a variety of systems for clients around the world. Previously, he held successive roles in Program Management at Christie, in the company’s facilities in Kitchener, Canada and managing global teams, including team members in Shenzhen, China. A notable recent triumph in his program management role was helping shepherd the development of the Christie Eclipse projector, recently recognized with a TEA Thea Award for technology.
Peckover is a P.Eng and holds an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University. He is also a certified PMP, CPA, and CMA. “There is nothing I enjoy more than a big challenge, and Christie CounterAct presents a great opportunity to move things forward and help industries to recover. What I love about this particular opportunity is that by helping to inactivate SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, we can make a real difference in the world. The potential payback is significant: keeping everybody healthier and reducing the impact of a future pandemic.”
Currently, Peckover is fully focused on CounterAct. “I call myself the project stakeholder; we have a project manager running the development and I contribute across both program and product management domains, helping us adapt to address the needs of the market.”
Judith Rubin ([email protected]) is editor of InPark Magazine and a leading journalist, publicist, strategist, blogger, content marketing specialist and connector in the international attractions industry. She excels at writing about all aspects of design and technical design, production and project management. Areas of special interest include AV integration and show control, lighting design and acoustics, specialty cinema, digital video and world’s fairs.