A lighting fixture made in Kenosha that the manufacturer claims can kill the virus behind COVID-19 was one of 150 Wisconsin products nominated for the “Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin” award, an annual competition meant to highlight the state’s manufacturing industry.
Indigo-Clean, a disinfection lighting fixture from Kenall Manufacturing, was nominated by the Kenosha Area Business Alliance. Originally based in Illinois, Kenall moved across the border to Kenosha in 2015.
Patrick Marry, Kenall’s president, said that regardless of how far they got in the competition, the event showed where the state’s values are.
“It’s also a reminder that Wisconsin is a manufacturing state,” Marry said, “Illinois doesn’t do anything like this.”
Although the competition’s Top 16 didn’t include Kenall when it was revealed last week, Becky Noble, the director of marketing for Kenosha Area Business Alliance, praised the “dynamic” and “engaged” company.
“Their Indigo Clean lighting fixture is an exciting innovation that we thought was definitely one of the coolest things made in Wisconsin,” Noble said.
Cleaning with light
Ultraviolet light has long been known to be effective in killing bacteria, mold, fungus and viruses, including COVID-19. However, due to the health risks to humans, disinfection with UV light requires areas to be cleared of people, a time consuming process that requires additional personnel training.
In 2005, a study found that non-UV light wavelengths, such as 405 nanometers, was capable of killing bacteria without causing harm to people. Marry said the potential of such technology was obvious, especially in hospitals where antibiotic-resistant bacteria posed a serious health risk.
“Especially in surgeries, that’s a big problem,” Marry said.
Disinfection could occur around the clock, even with people in the room. And with a motion sensor, Indigo-Clean could also switch between two modes, indigo and white.
When a room is empty, the light turns indigo, giving the highest dose of the 405 nm light. Although still safe for people, it makes it somewhat difficult to see. If the motion sensor detects someone, it switches to white mode, a blend of ambient white light and indigo, providing better visibility but reduced disinfection power.
On indigo mode, “We can pretty much kill anything in six hours,” Marry said, “If you can see something, we’re disinfecting it.”
While 405 nm was known to be effective against bacteria, its usefulness against viruses was uncertain. However, a recent study has Marry confident in the technology.
The study, conducted by researchers at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City and which hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet, found that the specific light wavelength utilized by the Indigo-Clean line can kill the COVID-19 virus.
Enveloped viruses, including the virus behind COVID-19, have an outer wrapping that holds them together. Marry said that studies had found the Indigo-Clean lights were not effective against non-enveloped viruses.
With the potential effectiveness and unobtrusiveness of the light disinfection fixtures, Marry said they expect to expand beyond hospitals. Schools, cruise ships, and other areas where respiratory viruses commonly spread could all utilize the light disinfection technology.
Although this research began in September 2020, Marry said the process of studying and reviewing took a long time.