Young Richmond inventor helps mitigate COVID-19 with new innovation

A low-cost machine that uses UVC light to safely sanitize people’s belongings is among the innovative ideas spawn by young people to combat COVID-19.

Richmondite Ray Liu, a 21-year-old UBC engineering student, pitched his concept, which he calls a SaniCube, to the Science Fair Foundation of British Columbia’s Youth Innovative Showcase (YIS) competition, where it was selected as a finalist.

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Using the same UVC light technology used in hospitals, the SaniCube is easily manufactured and could help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by sanitizing people’s personal belongings, said Ray, adding that the whole project is being done by himself.

“My mom is an essential worker and needs to take transit to work every day. One day my mom told me she was worried about her personal belongings that could be in contact with a lot of surfaces. And she wanted a UV sanitizer for high-risk personal items,” said Liu.

Aspiring to protect family members, Liu began searching radiation machines on Amazon but found what wasn’t already sold out was marked up unreasonably high.

“At that time, I thought maybe I could build one for my family and a couple for other family friends. I was able to source low-cost UVC light balls for SaniCube. I also found a way to make it safe because UVC itself can cause damage, such as skin burn. I needed to find ways that would allow people to use them safely,” said Liu.

However, Liu isn’t hoping to get rich off his idea. In fact, he’s hoping to find a manufacturer who would be willing to sell the SaniCube at cost, providing an alternative to the expensive and ineffective UV sanitizers currently being sold. 

Besides being a student, Liu said he is busy with his own 3D printing and electronics repair business.

Liu said he has never seen attending UBC as an end in itself. Rather, he is more interested in using his skills and knowledge to contribute to the broader society.

“Sometimes, you have to follow your own path. You have to be observing and looking around to see what places might benefit from something you created. Through that, you can come up with great ideas like this,” said Ray.

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