University of Strathclyde wins Research Project of the Year

06 December 2011

A system that can kill superbugs has been named Research Project of the Year at the Times Higher Education Awards
A system that can kill superbugs has been named Research Project of the Year at the Times Higher Education Awards

A superbug killing system has been named Research Project of the Year at the Times Higher Education Awards.

The pioneering technology, developed by engineering researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, decontaminates the air and exposed surfaces by bathing them in a narrow spectrum of visible-light wavelengths, known as HINS-light.

The Times Higher Awards each year recognise the very best achievements of UK universities across a range of disciplines.

Commenting on this year’s entries, the judging panel said: “The unflagging quality and innovation evident in universities across the UK shows the sector's resolute commitment to excellence.”

The University of Strathclyde’s cutting-edge decontamination technology was discovered and developed by a multidisciplinary team of experts; Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Professor Scott MacGregor (Electrical Engineer), Professor John Anderson and Dr Michelle Maclean (Microbiologists) and Professor Gerry Woolsey (Optical Physicist.)

Clinical trials at Glasgow Royal Infirmary have shown that the HINS-light Environmental Decontamination System provides significantly greater reductions of bacterial pathogens in the hospital environment than can be achieved by cleaning and disinfection alone, providing a huge step forward in hospitals’ ability to prevent the spread of infection and improve patient safety.

Professor Jim McDonald, Principal of the University of Strathclyde, said: “This pioneering research project epitomises Strathclyde’s approach of working with the health sector to tackle major challenges of the 21st century. Receiving recognition with this prestigious award is a fantastic achievement for the research team and reflects the outstanding quality of work being undertaken throughout the University. This success underlines our commitment to providing real, tangible solutions to significant societal problems in areas including health, energy and the environment.”

The breakthrough technology was developed in response to the urgent need for new approaches to disinfection and sterilisation within the clinical environment, as traditional methods have significant limitations. Decontamination methods involving gas sterilants or UV-light can be hazardous to staff and patients, while cleaning, disinfection and hand washing, although essential routine procedures, have limited effectiveness and problems with compliance.

The HINS-light technology kills pathogens but is harmless to patients and staff, which means for the first time, hospitals can continually disinfect wards and isolation rooms without the need to move patients.

The technology uses HINS-light, which has a violet hue, but the research team has used a combination of LED technologies to produce a warm white lighting system that can be used alongside normal hospital lighting.

The programme was successful in securing a competitive Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept award in recognition of its considerable potential for clinical deployment in a priority area for the UK Health Services. It is also supported by the University of Strathclyde and The Robertson Trust.

The technology was developed in Strathclyde’s pioneering Robertson Trust Laboratory for Electronic Sterilisation Technologies (ROLEST), which is dedicated to controlling infection in today’s healthcare environments.

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