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During ESD’s visit to the Elettronica Rome (ELT Roma) facility in November 2022, the company demonstrated their E4Sheild microwave biodefence system, designed to inactivate ambient viruses in the air. Similar in appearance to a flat, square, tile, the E4Shield works by using a specific frequency of microwave to induce structure-resonant energy transfer onto the virus’ structure, in turn fracturing the virus’ outer shell and thereby rendering them inactive in aerosol form “within a few minutes” of being switched on. The frequency used by the device can penetrate some building walls, depending on their composition and thickness, but will be attenuated by water or metals. Depending on the setup, this could potentially allow the device to inactivate viruses in rooms adjacent to the one where the emitter is active.

At present, Elettronica has two variants of E4Shield on offer. The first is the E4Shield Personal, which is the smaller of the two, measuring 85 × 85 × 22 mm. It is intended for personal wear, with a peak power of 7 W and an effective protection diameter of 3 m. The larger variant is the E4Shield 50, measuring 150 × 150 × 45 mm. It is intended for use in offices or larger public spaces, with a peak power of 9 W and an effective coverage of 50 m2, which was understood to correspond to a protection diameter of 7.97 m. Both variants are provided with batteries to allow up to 4 hours of continual operation when disconnected from their power supply. They can be recharged fully in 2 hours (for E4Shield Personal) or 3 hours (for E4Shield 50) using a typical USB-A to USB-C charger. The device can be interfaced with either via the aforementioned USB-C cable or via Bluetooth. A company representative stated that the device is completely harmless to humans and is safe around pacemakers. Both variants of E4Shield have already received CE (Conformité Européenne) certification and SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) safety compliance certification for uncontrolled environment/general exposure limits specified in EN62311:2008 and EN62479:2010.

It should be noted that the technology works only against viruses in the air, and cannot destroy viruses once they have already entered the human body. This is because the body’s water content attenuates the microwave signal. At present E4Shield is capable of inactivating different variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Elettronica, during testing the device was demonstrated to be capable of inactivating 90% of the viral load in an aerosol containing the virus, and this effectiveness extends to variants of SARS-CoV-2, including the Delta and Omicron variants.

Beyond SARS-CoV-2, the technology could also be applied to inactivate other viruses in future, such as seasonal flu. The company representative stated that making it work against other viruses would require matching the emission frequency and waveform to a specific viral threat, requiring the building of a threat library of different viruses and their corresponding microwave inactivation signals. When ESD asked how the device would know which frequencies and waveforms it would be required to generate, Elettronica stated that under their future roadmap they were working with partners to develop and integrate a means of determining which viruses are present in the local environment, so that the E4Shield emitter can tune itself to combat those specific threats.

The product is already available on the business-to-business (B2B) market, and Elettronica stated that they are aiming to acquire contracts for the product in the transport, automotive, and real estate/property management sectors. From a public health perspective, Elettronica emphasised that their E4Shield range is intended to complement rather than completely replace masks, since no single measure is guaranteed to prevent infection. However, for a world emerging from COVID-19 lockdowns, this device holds the potential to reduce infection risks in commonly crowded areas such as public transport, airports, indoor venues, hospitals, military sites, vehicle platforms, and various others.