Bout with COVID-19 led to his company adapting its technology to protect health care workers

Stricken with COVID-19, Oliver Laval spent two weeks quarantined with a lot of time to think.


Through the fever, cough, and difficult breathing he came up with a way to adapt his company’s technology to help alleviate the shortage of personal protective equipment for health care workers.


Laval is CEO of AquiSense Technologies, an Erlanger company that developed ultraviolet LED disinfection technology to sanitize water. Using that technology, the company has launched a product to sterilize N95 face masks and other PPE so they can be reused.


The idea was, “If you have a mask, how do you make it last longer, so you can keep your costs in check or just be able to get them,” Laval says.


The company recently hosted representatives from St. Elizabeth Healthcare and the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to provide more information on the product and the technology. Also present were representatives from Confluence, a collaboration of local organizations and businesses interested in clean water, and Florence-based machine tool company Mazak, says AquiSense spokesman Mitch Hansen.


The product is called the PearlSurface 24G9 and the company says its compact size and simple operation make it useful in hospital settings, nursing homes, ambulances, police and fire departments, factories and food preparation locations.


The company said it is offering the product under current FDA enforcement relief regulations to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.


Laval says potential customers in need of reliable supplies of protective gear were approaching him and others in the company about using its UV light technology to sterilize gear for health care workers.


“We accelerated our product development pipeline in response,” Laval says.


The company says the product uses UV-C light, which the International Ultraviolet Association says has been used for disinfection for over a century. UV-C radiation is absorbed by DNA and RNA genetic codes, changing their structure.


The organization warns against using such light on the human body, saying it can cause severe burns, skin cancer and eye damage.


The company says it has expanded its manufacturing capabilities, doubled the size of its clean room, increased the number of assembly bays and hired new employees.


In 2016, AquiSense was acquired by Nikkiso, a Tokyo-based manufacturer of medical devices and other products.

Continued COVID-19 coverage has been supported by a grant from the Facebook Journalism Project, a program run in partnership with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and Local Media Association.

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Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is the managing editor of NKY Thrives, an award-winning journalist, and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading or watching classic movies.