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Columbia company helps design a cleaner, more efficient mosquito trap

Manufacturing
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A new product developed in a push by Columbia-based Sensor Electronic Technology Inc. to create more consumer applications for ultraviolet LED technology is creating a buzz.

SETi teamed with Korea-based Seoul Viosys to build a cleaner, quieter and more efficient mosquito trap that comes to market at a time when the Zika virus continues to make worldwide headlines.

The Mosclean trap, launched under Seoul Viosys’ violeds brand, combines a specific ultraviolet wavelength with a titanium dioxide coating that emits carbon dioxide. This combination consistently showed more than 10 times the performance of a traditional trap in capturing Aedes aegypti, the main vector of Zika, according to testing at the University of Florida.

The Mosclean mosquito trap — developed by Korean firm Seoul Viosys, along with Columbia-based partner Sensor Electronic Technology Inc. — uses a combination of ultraviolet light and a material coating technology to trap more mosquitos than traditional products, according to experiments at the University of Florida and the University of Hawaii. (Photo/Provided)“We knew the mosquitos were more attracted to the color of the light that we’re putting out. We didn’t quite realize how much. That’s been very exciting for us,” said Tim Bettles, SETi vice president of business development and marketing. “The unit doesn’t use the traditional bug zapper technology where you’re got a wire grid. It uses a fan that draws them into a cage at the bottom of it. (The mosquitos) can’t fly out, can’t escape. They dehydrate. It’s quiet, so you can run it in your house. There’s no zapping noise. You can put it in a bedroom and sleep through the thing.”

Bettles said the UV light appears as a faint purple color.

Philip Koehler, a leading authority in the field of mosquito control, conducted a series of Mosclean trials at Florida.

“Recent experiments conducted in our lab in Florida confirmed that (the) Mosclean UV LED trap captures significantly more mosquitos capable of vectoring Zika virus than a popular competing product,” Koehler said in a news release.

Daniel Rubinoff, director of the University of Hawaii Insect Museum and an entomology professor, also conducted Mosclean experiments. His findings: “Mosclean was highly effective capturing Zika virus-transmitting mosquito species, along with other mosquito species which are prevalent in both residential and outdoor environments.”

Founded in 1999, SETi has traditionally served military, medical and space exploration markets, “very niche products,” Bettles said. “We’ve been looking at ways in which to drive LEDs into consumer applications.”

The company uses UV LED technology in the disinfection of water, air and surfaces, as well as in food growth and preservation.

“We’ve got some really interesting technology,” Bettles said. “We’ve done a lot of work on increasing the nutritional value of crops grown in greenhouses … With the preservation and the growth technology, all we’re doing is replicating a portion of the sun’s light that’s naturally occurring here on earth.”

The market possibilities for Mosclean, available from $34.95 on Amazon.com, add to the company’s consumer appeal. The lightweight trap is compact and portable, ideal for camping and recreational vehicle use, Bettles said.

Mosclean can also help minimize the harmful environmental effects of chemical spraying.

As of May 18, South Carolina has seen one confirmed travel-associated case of Zika, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. Mosquitos in the U.S. do not currently carry the virus, DHEC said, though more cases may be seen in the state as people vacation to countries where the virus is actively spreading.

South Carolina is home to 61 different species of mosquitoes, though mosquito-borne diseases are rare. In 2015, there were two human West Nile virus infections and one case of La Crosse encephalitis in the state, DHEC said.

Travelers to areas where mosquitos carry diseases such as Zika, dengue fever or malaria are encouraged to take extra precautions.

“Mosquitos are a pain wherever you live,” Bettles said. “They’re not the nicest insect in the world, and they account for more human deaths annually around the globe than any other animal, including humans.”

Contact Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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