Akshay Singhal, founder & CEO, Log 9 Material, in an exclusive conversation with Electronics For You’s Mukul Yudhveer Singh, shared insights on why/how the nano-tech decided to develop CoronaOven.
He shed light on the future of CoronaOven as a product amid and beyond the Coronavirus pandemic and the challenges the startup is facing in developing these.
Box Item Log 9 Materials is a nano-technology startup. It specialises in using graphene as a nanomaterial for developing cutting edge fuel cells for energy usage and filtration technologies. The startup is open for collaborations in sourcing components required for CoronaOven.
Q. How did the idea of CoronaOven come to light? How much time was this developed in?
A. Actually, the idea came about from the fact that both me and my co-founder, Pankaj, were scared about getting contaminated with the virus by getting groceries from outside. When we go out we normally use the same mask over and over again. The process makes one vulnerable against the virus.
There was nothing available to sanitise these products. You can’t just apply soap water or sanitizer to all the groceries. You can’t actually do it on masks even if you wanted. We realised that the need would be even more in hospitals where there is a short supply of these masks and PPEs. This is how the idea of CoronaOven took initial shape.
Hence, we started working on disinfecting systems. The technology has been completely developed based on the US FDA study which showed that a particular intensity of UV light radiations can kill the SAR-CoV-1 virus in less than 10 minutes.
Additionally, we have been working closely with IISC (Indian Institute of Science) Bangalore and NITI Aayog. When the corona outbreak happened we had a discussion on it and they mentioned that three areas were very crucial for combating Coronavirys. These included ventilators, PPE and disinfecting systems. It took around eight to 10 days to develop this solution.
Q. Where was the POC of this product done? Any help from government agencies?
A. The PoC of the product was done at our facility in Bangalore. We have been working with IISc very closely. We use their labs for testing and trials for other projects. Log 9 has also collaborated with them around developing ventilators.
NITI Aayog has helped us in the past as well. It helped us reach out to various government bodies and demonstrate our solutions and then get the necessary permissions.
Q. How many masks can be sanitized at a time? How did you validate that all the germs or all the pathogens including coronavirus have been killed?
A. In one go, around eight to 10 masks can be sanitized. Over an hour 40 masks can be sanitized.
The CoronaOven has been designed as per the data from the US FDA. The current virus is called SARS-CoV-2. On SARS-Cov-1 extensive study shows that if you radiate a particular amount of UV light on the surface for more than 10 minutes then the virus will be completely neutralised.
We used those data points and designed the system to ensure that every surface, every square centimetre of the object placed inside receives that much of UV intensity. Then we have conducted extensive simulation data to show that every square centimetre is receiving that kind of radiation.
Q. Log 9 Materials has unveiled several models of CoronaOven. What’s the difference between these models?
A. Yes, there are three variants, one variant is a table top plug in variant which you can plug into a normal socket and the other one is a battery operated variant. It is priced at ₹ 9,999 for the 20 L variant. The second one has various use cases such as it can be used in an ambulance or a police van or a grocery delivery van or a food delivery van. Dubbed portable CoronaOven, it is priced at Rs 17,999 for the 20 L variant.
Q. Has the government added this product into the essential supplies list? What about its components?
A. Yes, it has been listed in the essential supplies list. Products can be added in the essentials list, but the components cannot be added.
If you have an essential product listed, you can write to the vendors that it is essential and now you can open your shop. The same letter can be taken to the police administration to give necessary permissions to that vendor.
Q. You mentioned that certain vendors are overpricing for components. Have you informed the government authorities in this regard?
A. You can’t force the vendors, The vendor(s) will simply say that if you don’t want it then just go away. If you try to complain about a vendor to the government then you end up losing the vendor and components.
This happens, the point is that everybody is looking to earn a livelihood and especially in the scenario of a lockdown everybody has to manage their cash flow, expenses and everything else. We also understand that if somebody has to go out and give us the components, they are taking risk with their life as well.
Many are not even opening their shops at this point of time. We have no choice but to source components at whatever prices they are available at!
Q. Are you sourcing anything from outside India?
A. Right now everything that we are using is available in India. Our vendors may or may not have sourced these from outside India. However, all the components we have used are available with India-based vendors only.
We are looking for more vendors for sourcing components and other things required to build these.
Q. Could you name some components that you are open collaborating for?
A. We are open for sourcing components like digital timers which are used to determine the fixed time for exposure. Then we have normal electronics components like switches, fuses etc. Metal sheets are also required for the outer box or shield. Those are the major components that we have requirements for at the moment.
Q. How many CoronaOvens can you manufacture in a day or say a month? How many do you think you’ll be able to retail in per month?
A. We will be able to produce 300 units per day and that can be expanded to 2000 or 3000 units in the next seven to 10 days.
Log 9 Materials estimates that within April, we should be able to sell at least 30,000 to 50,000 units. We have a huge demand that we are seeing in the market. I think it will scale up further.
Q. Any orders from the government?
A. Yes, we have got orders from government hospitals, some private hospitals and also from police administrations. If you look at front-end responders like police administrators, medical staff, they have been provided only one mask for an entire month which is really serious
If a person is using the same mask over a month, that mask germinates with bacteria or some other infectants and can make the person sick. It is really important for such people to sanitise their masks for reuse.
Q. Any plans to introduce bigger models of CoronaOven?
A. Yes, once the production and supply chain is stabilised for these two variants, we will look into it and we already have queries for larger variants.
For example, how to sanitise the entire body coveralls and equipment at hospitals. Delivering bodies of those who suffered from the virus is also a challenge. We are working on developing bigger models but it might take some time.
Q. Will there be use of these after the pandemic gets over?
A. Absolutely, this will become a standard disinfecting appliance going forward in hospitals and also there will be a behavioral shift in people. The shift will be quite similar to how we shifted from drinking water from normal taps to using RO systems at home.
Right now, our primary target is to deliver this product to hospitals, front responders, police and everyone. But eventually, this will become a consumer product because people will want to sanitize whatever they are getting into their house.
General hygiene factors will improve across the society. That’s how it will become a standard home and hospital appliance.
Q. If a company is interested in buying these from you and selling after white labelling, will you be open? Anything for people ordering in bulk?
A. Our reach in terms of the scale will always be limited and if some big player wants to come in and join hands, that would be beneficial for the entire humanity. Our idea is to take it far and wide and take it to as many people, hospitals as much as possible.
If a bulk order is there, logistics costs will be lower. So, we are happy to negotiate the price. During the lockdown period, we are not looking to earn a lot of margins. We will feel content even if we’re able to get salaries for our people involved in the project.
For the government, we have already announced a 10 per cent flat discount, but if we are able to go even lower than that, we will be happy to do it.