Lightning sparks scientists’ design of ultraviolet-C device for food sanitization

The team included, from left, doctoral student Zachary (Zhenhui) Jin, food safety and engineering professor Yi-Cheng Wang and graduate student Longwen Li.  Photo by UI NEWS BUREAU/FRED ZWICKY

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have developed a portable, self-powered ultraviolet-C device called the Tribo-sanitizer that can inactivate two of the bacteria responsible for many foodborne illnesses and deaths.

The Tribo-sanitizer’s UVC lamp is powered using the triboelectric effect – electricity that is generated when two dissimilar materials come into contact. In tests, the Tribo-sanitizer successfully inactivated two potentially deadly foodborne bacteria, Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Listeria