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HPU professor, students develop wearable COVID-19-killing device

Special to the Bulletin
An Aurakills prototype and LED matrix are pictured.
HPU's Talen Davis-Rentfro, Dr. Martin Mintchev and Jacob Bonner examine Aurakills prototypes.

Howard Payne University’s Dr. Martin Mintchev and students from his engineering science senior project course recently unveiled Aurakills, wearable personal protective equipment designed to emit a virus- and bacteria-destroying UV aura effective against COVID-19.

The fully functional prototype is a modified baseball cap that features a battery-powered, built-in LED matrix embedded in the bills. For prototype purposes, the LEDs represent far-UVC or UVC LEDs that would ultimately be embedded in the ample space provided in the bill, designed using modern 3D printing.

Mintchev, professor of engineering science and director of the engineering science program, devised Aurakills as a practical, educational opportunity for his students through engineering design, intellectual property development and entrepreneurship.

In addition to its benefits in the fight against COVID-19, the project, which has a pending patent, was designed to position the students at the forefront of technological innovation while giving them an opportunity to build intellectual property, participate in the process of developing an invention into a patent and, ultimately, monetize the project through a real business partnership. The device is set to replace the commercially available face shields, the efficacy of which in COVID-19 protection has been intensely questioned in recent scientific publications.

“We have engineering calculations based on leading publications, and they explicitly show that the Aurakills cap will destroy COVID and other harmful viruses and bacteria before they can land on the face of the user,” Mintchev said.

He formed the Aurakills Partnership with three seniors majoring in engineering science: Talen Davis-Rentfro of Kaufman as chief executive officer; Paden Seidel of Brownwood as chief technology officer; and Jacob Bonner of Copperas Cove as chief operating officer. Mintchev serves as president of the partnership.

“This is an exciting project for our students,” said Dr. Gerry Clarkson, dean of HPU’s School of Science and Mathematics. “Dr. Mintchev has given Talen, Paden and Jacob the opportunity to experience all that is involved in creating a new product from scratch. Participating in the creation, design and production of something new is a valuable experience for them. We look forward to many such experiences with future students.”

Mintchev joined HPU’s faculty at the start of the fall 2020 semester. Originally from Bulgaria, he recently moved to U.S. from Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

“I sincerely hope this new technology will disseminate nationally and internationally the unique HPU response to the challenge COVID-19 presents,” he said. “This is the type of market-oriented, innovative answer America is always able to give when challenged, this time coming from a small, Christian university located in the heart of Texas.”