WASHINGTON COLLEGE 300 Washington Ave Chestertown, MD 21620 IDEAWORKS Innovation Suite Library and Academic Technology Miller Library, Lower Level

[ Portfolio | Project ICARUS ]

Developed in the IDEAWORKS Innovation Suite, ICARUS (Intense Contained ARtificial Ultraviolet Sanitizer) is a device that utilizes UV-C light for non-invasive equipment sanitization.

Library and Academic Technology (LAT) regularly loans cameras and other equipment to students for academic and personal projects. With the concern of spreading Covid-19, how can we keep our campus safe with the frequent exchange and handling of this gear? Although we can use sprays and alcohol wipes on some items, delicate electronics often will have buttons and seams where moisture can penetrate and cause damage.

In the IDEAWORKS Innovation Suite, we approached this challenge by starting with the industry leaders – interviewing a number of companies that rent large volumes of camera equipment to professionals on a daily basis.  We also looked at the medical field, with vast surfaces and delicate electronics that shared a similar challenge, like in a hospital or dental facility.  One tool that was found throughout was the use of UV-C light.

Electromagnetic radiation comes from the sun and transmitted in waves or particles at different wavelengths and frequencies. This broad range of wavelengths is known as the electromagnetic spectrum.  Just beyond the visible portion of the spectrum we find Ultraviolet radiation.  While most of the UV-A and a small amount of UV-B wavelengths penetrate our atmosphere and reach the surface of Earth, we’re lucky that all the UV-C light is absorbed in the upper atmosphere.  With life evolving on Earth without the presence of UV-C light, living things have no tolerance to this type of electromagnetic radiation.  As a result, exposing UV-C light on things like viruses, bacteria, and mold can be an effective way to kill them.  It essentially damages the DNA structures and things like viruses can no longer replicate.

The IDEAWORKS Innovation Suite has developed a new tool to address this problem on campus.  ICARUS (Intense Contained ARtificial Ultraviolet Sanitizer) is a table-top device which employs a powerful 72w UV-C light that destroys 99.9% of Covid-19 and other viruses from the surfaces of objects in a matter of seconds.  It’s designed to be safe and fool-proof in operation, for consistent results by our trained staff.


ICARUS door open
A brief exposure of UV-C light on a piece of equipment like a camera doesn’t harm the camera itself, and is an effective way to stop the spread of things like Covid-19.  But there are a few obstacles if we want to use UV-C light for this purpose.  

Just as UV-C kills the viruses and bacteria, it’s harmful to our skin and eyes as well.  We can’t have the light visibly shining where we can see it, so we designed a robust enclosure out of inexpensive plywood.  Using a CO2 laser for precision cutting of the materials, the rounded rectangular box has a hinged door that can be closed when the unit is to be operated. To be sure it’s not possible to run the UV-C light while the door is open, or pull the door open while it’s in use, we are utilizing an Arduino microcontroller and a pair of switches that sense when the door is closed.  The logic of the programming behind the scenes uses these to check that the door is closed before the sanitization process will begin.  Additionally, powerful electromagnets are engaged and hold the door shut while the UV-C light is on.

Our students are well aware of the Inverse Square Law as it applies in our photography lighting workshops.  The same principles are in effect when using UV-C light for sanitization purposes.  For the UV-C light to be effective, it needs to bathe the objects at an appropriate distance for an appropriate duration.  We can look at a chart that shows the necessary distances and durations for the 99.9% effectivity rate.  With our 72w light fixture, the objects are sanitized in just a few seconds, however we programmed a duration of about 100 seconds to be certain we achieved our goal.
The motor that slowly rotates has a switch that detects its position.  It can tell the Arduino microcontroller when it has completed a full revolution, since a thorough process would require not just adequate time, but this complete circular movement.

To make ICARUS user friendly, there are three sets of LEDs that indicate machine status.  A green LED is lit when the UV-C lamp is off and it’s safe for the door to be open.  When a sanitization cycle is started, the green light turns off and the three “Danger In Use” LEDs light up.  If a user attempts to start the machine with the door open, the “Error Door Open” light will flash several times and the UV-C lights stay off.


With the door closed, there would be no way to look inside to know if there was a problem.  If a bulb were to burn out or the tray stopped spinning, it would affect the effectiveness.  We incorporated a small camera inside with an external LCD monitor to let you view inside the enclosure.

UV-C Sanitization Chamber

ICARUS has a compartment to organize all the controlling electronics, controls, and wiring.  The top panel is clear acrylic to encourage a look behind the curtain.  We want our students to explore their curiosity and discover that many of the components used are already familiar to them.  In fact, most of the parts used in constructing ICARUS are salvaged or left over from previous projects.  Only the UV-C lamp fixture itself was purchased specifically for this project.


You may recognize the following parts from a previous life:

The IDEAWORKS Innovation Suite is a part of Library and Academic Technology at Washington College.