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NEWS | Nov. 25, 2020

PSNS & IMF Innovation Lab designs, builds prototype LED disinfecting devices to combat COVID-19

By Max Maxfield, PSNS & IMF Public Affairs PSNS & IMF

A team of innovators from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility designed and built two handheld ultraviolet-C LED disinfecting prototype devices that are currently being tested to determine how effective they are at killing COVID-19 on surfaces.

According to Branden Doyle, the nuclear innovation program manager with Code 2301, Nuclear Project Engineering, PSNS & IMF learned about UVC light as a potential sanitizing solution to combat the COVID-19 pandemic from a white paper written by Naval Nuclear Laboratories that outlined the potential of the technology. The PSNS & IMF innovation team partnered with other technical organizations and joined the Naval Coronavirus Rapid Response Team, referred to as NCR2T, to pursue possible solutions to killing COVID-19.

“PSNS & IMF joined with NAVSEA 05 (Naval Systems Engineering Directorate), the Naval Research Laboratory, the Naval Nuclear Laboratory, Naval Undersea Warfare Center-Newport, Naval Surface Warfare Center-Dahlgren and Naval Surface Warfare Center-Port Hueneme, among others, to find solutions to effectively kill the virus SARS-CoV-2,” said Doyle. “NCR2T is developing recommendations for fleet-wide solutions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and the PSNS & IMF Handheld UVC LED Disinfector may be one of those solutions. A direct collaboration with NUWCNewport was formed to work together on future iterations of the PSNS & IMF handheld unit, which includes far-UVC (222nm) excimer lamp solutions.”

Doyle said the team decided to build LED-based devices because commercial UVC surface sanitizing devices generally use mercury bulbs, which cannot be taken into all areas of a naval vessel.

“The commercially available devices that NCR2T evaluated were not appropriate for naval use,” said Doyle. “PSNS & IMF had the engineering talent in-house to design and build an LED-based solution, so we took on the challenge. Since designing and building this product, one other commercial LED solution has been identified and tested, but its power output is significantly less than that of the PSNS & IMF unit.”

While PSNS & IMF currently has enough parts to build 10 more handheld units, the team is awaiting feedback from the ongoing testing of the two prototypes before building any more.

“One unit went to San Diego to support the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Planned Incremental Availability, and was used to sanitize surfaces on a job with a high risk of viral transmission. The device was used as a back-up sanitization method while awaiting results from efficacy testing at NSWC Dahlgren,” Doyle said. “The second unit was shipped to NRL and Dahlgren for further validation and testing, to determine if it will be used as a fleet-wide solution.”

The PSNS & IMF Innovation Team is currently making some slight design changes to allow for easy mass production, and further increasing power output.

“After proving our final design and validating all efficacy data, the PSNS & IMF Innovation Team will seek a transition partner for mass production of the device, if the Navy decides production increase is warranted,” said Doyle. “This could be a private company producing units based on our Navy intellectual property on a contract basis, or could be an organization within the Navy that has the skillset and resources to mass-produce a product of this complexity. If the production remained at PSNS & IMF, additional resources would need to be designated to support that production.”

Branden Doyle led the UV product development team, which included mechanical and design lead Chris Doyle, Code 2310, Reactor Engineering; electrical lead Wilson Davenport, Code 290, Combat Systems Engineering; and others from Nuclear Engineering, Radiological Controls and Technology Insertion groups.

Support organizations such as Code 109, Information Technology; Code 106, Environmental Safety and Health; and Code 400, Contracting, also contributed team members, who proved to be pivotal in meeting scheduled dates and maintaining some agility in the development process, Doyle said.

“The entire team was filled with talent, curiosity, and a drive to produce something that will make a difference. Chris and Wilson showed incredible dedication to this project, and their ability to design, build, and iterate quickly allowed us to be successful,” said Doyle. The command’s efforts to help protect the workforce from the COVID-19 pandemic have helped PSNS & IMF embrace rapid innovation solutions and problem solving.

“In order to accomplish rapid design and prototyping of this new product, the team needed space, tools and specific equipment,” said Doyle. “This project gave birth to the PSNS & IMF Innovation Lab, which can act collaboratively as a self-service alternative to the Moonshine Lab.”

Although the space used to build UVC handheld disinfecting units was temporary, the command is determining a permanent location to house this capability. The PSNS & IMF Innovation Lab is growing to include equipment to perform computer design and analysis, 3D printing, electrical prototyping, light fabrication and machining, and all varieties of hand tools to perform measurement, analysis and prototype building. Large work surfaces and storage space will be available for assembling projects of various size and complexity.

“This project provides another example of how PSNS & IMF has a lot of untapped resources in our people, who, when given the opportunity, can truly shine and accomplish big things,” Doyle said. “Allowing employees to step up and try new or challenging things can lead to unexpected results and positively influence the way we do business as a shipyard.”