Skip to main content


Engineering X Pandemic Preparedness

Principal investigator: Eldad AVITAL
Co-investigator(s): Fariborz MOTALLEBI
Funding source(s): Royal Academy of Engineering
 Start: 15-07-2020  /  End: 14-07-2021
 Amount: £20,000
SEMS divisions:


UK Principal Investigator: Dr Eldad Avital

Partners: India – VIT Chenai Prof Nithya Venkatesan, IIT Madras Prof Abdus Samad

Consultant: Emeritus Prof Clive Beggs, Leeds Beckett

QMUL Co-investigator: Dr Fariborz Motallebi


QMUL PhD student: Yang Chen

QMUL MEng team: Lidia Garcia, Muneeb Khawar, Ayman Mohammed, Maham Sandhu, Taylor Smith, Dena Rahman

India research assistants: Rishav Raj, Mahesh Ravindra, Saket Kapse


We develop a stand alone air disinfection device capable of inactivating the SARS-CoV-2 virus (Covid-19) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (tuberculosis (TB)). The devise utilises a novel particle separation technology, which boosts the air disinfection capabilities of an ultraviolet-C (UV-C) light source, allowing much larger quantities of air to be purified than would normally be the case. If successful, the device will represent a step-change on current air disinfection technologies and should prove helpful in combating the transmission of airborne (aerosol) diseases such as Covid-19 and TB within buildings.

Light in the UV-C region produces photons that are absorbed by nucleic acids (both DNA and RNA) to form dimers (fused base pairs) that impair replication of pathogenic viruses and bacteria [1], greatly reducing their ability cause infection. It has been shown that UV-C light can inactivate coronaviruses and thus there is good reason to believe that the SARS-CoV-2 virus will be susceptible to UV irradiation [2]. Similarly, it has been shown that TB can be inactivated using UV-C light [3]. Both TB and Covid-19 are infectious diseases that are transmitted via aerosolised respiratory droplets produced indoors. As such, UV-C air disinfection devices have great potential to inhibit the spread of these diseases in room spaces if used appropriately. However, such devices are limited by the small air flow rate that they can handle. This is because pathogenic microbes often require high UV irradiation doses, with the result that the air velocity through such devices needs to be very low, meaning that they can only disinfect small amounts of air. However, by utilising particle separation it is possible to greatly enhance the irradiation capabilities of the device, thus allowing much larger quantities of air to be disinfected.

[1] Beggs CB (2002). A quantitative method for evaluating the photoreactivation of ultraviolet damaged microorganisms. Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences. 2002. 1: 431-437,

[2] Beggs CB, Avital EJ (2020). Upper-room ultraviolet air disinfection might help to reduce COVID-19 transmission in buildings: a feasibility study. PeerJ 8:e10196,

[3] Escombe AR, et al (2009). Upper-room ultraviolet light and negative air ionization to prevent tuberculosis transmission. PLoS Med 6 (3), e1000043,