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His plane-disinfecting invention didn't take off — until COVID-19 hit

Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

Seven years before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Arthur Kreitenberg, a Los Angeles orthopedic surgeon, came up with an invention in his basement to quickly disinfect an airplane cabin using ultraviolet light.

He even bought airplane seats from the airline graveyard in the Mojave desert to test his idea.

But the idea did not catch on quickly. His wife joked that Kreitenberg's tinkering in the basement was "cheaper than having a girlfriend." At the many aviation trade shows and conferences he attended to pitch his invention, few showed interest.

COVID-19 changed all of that.

Honeywell International, the multinational conglomerate with $37 billion in annual sales, announced this month that it is teaming up with Kreitenberg to build the UV invention and distribute it to the world's airlines. The company plans to build more than 100 units by the end of July, with production increasing in the following months.

The invention, originally named the GermFalcon, looks like an airline beverage cart equipped with two mechanical arms that stretch out over the plane's seats like a pair of wings. The arms emit UV light as the cart is pushed down the aisle.

 

Kreitenberg's son, Elliot, who gave up his basement batting cage for his dad's invention, has teamed with his father to get the GermFalcon off the ground.

The contraption can disinfect a cabin in about 10 minutes at a cost of about $10 per plane, according to Honeywell, which is marketing the device as the Honeywell UV Cabin System.

It's not a novel concept. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's database shows more than 30 patents filed since 1995 that propose using UV light to disinfect water, air, surgical equipment, cellphone screens and catheters, among other things.

Medical experts note that UV light is already used to disinfect hospital operating rooms, and two of Southern California's swankiest hotels, the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hilton, recently announced plans to use UV light to disinfect their rooms in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

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