Ready, aim, sterilize: a light-based device helps resource-strapped healthcare providers protect themselves against COVID-19. (Credit:Shutterstock/wacomka)

Using ultraviolet light (UV) can deactivate a bacterium that is accepted as a proxy for the dangerous-to-handle virus that causes COVID-19. The researchers say the process could eliminate 99.9999 percent of pathogens in under five minutes.

The two researchers each designed a prototype mask sterilization device to serve as a model for do-it-yourself photonics engineers around the world to copy for use wherever they might be. They worked closely to help public health teams in limited-resource settings use inexpensive, locally sourced components to build their own decontamination units.

One of the devices can be run on solar power. According to the researchers, the can design decontaminates fewer masks at a time, but it is easily transported, requires minimal power, and can be used in remote areas.