This spring and summer the coronavirus pandemic saw schools close and businesses shut down while customers ravaged the soap and hand sanitizer aisles of grocery stores. Amid all the stress and changes, two UNC sophomores had an idea on how they could help.
So they built their startup UltraLoop, offering a reusable Ultraviolet-C light (UVC) sanitation method that destroys the Covid-19 virus—or any other virus for that matter—on any surface.
Aditya Bhatt, a sophomore studying physics and computer science, paired up with Mukesh Loganathan, another sophomore studying biology and neuroscience, to create UltraLoop once he went back to India in March because of the pandemic. The two had originally met in a UNC physics course.
“When going back, I kind of saw the loopholes in the airports about how the sanitization works,” said Bhatt, noting that nobody seemed to be sterilizing luggage, smartphones, laptops or handbags. “Just all the loopholes altogether in how we use alcohol and other things to sanitize.”
The UltraLoop co-founders had a vision of alcohol-free sanitation for the household as well as public areas like offices and airports. This enables use for personal belongings such as laptops and books that cannot be sanitized with alcohol-based solutions without being damaged.
The other applications are numerous. PPE masks, kits and groceries can also easily benefit from UltraLoop’s sanitization method.
When items are placed inside an UltraLoop device—or “oven”—the UVC light kills DNA and RNA inside pathogens, effectively killing a virus on any surface in 30 seconds.
UltraLoop’s Kickstarter campaign is set to begin next month with a goal of $100K. The startup has pre-sold 30 devices to friends and family so far and was part of Launch Chapel Hill’s summer cohort.
Launch Chapel Hill will be the first to use the innovative UltraLoop product, allowing people to place their belongings in the UltraLoop oven to keep safe. The domestic or individual-sized oven will cost $350, while the larger model for use in public places will be $2,500.
This moves the startup one step closer to fully fighting the spread of Covid-19. Bhatt said there is fear surrounding the global situation and traveling, and he hopes UltraLoop can help combat that in some way.
“When we started we just had a basic idea of what we wanted to make,” Bhatt said of UltraLoop’s founding in May.
With rapid prototyping and design iterations, UltraLoop had a prototype in just three weeks.
Under Launch Chapel Hill’s mentorship, UltraLoop pivoted from a B2B business model (i.e. selling to other businesses) to a B2C—direct to consumer—model. The student entrepreneurs hope to sell at least 5,000 devices as they make Kickstarter their main focus.
“If we can be of any use preventing the spread of viruses,” Bhatt said, “if we made 1% impact, we feel like we have achieved something.”