Disinfecting banknotes at a speedy 1,000 notes/min.: Hitachi-Omron Terminal Solutions develops currency disinfector
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COVID-19 cases are surging globally. As infections spread, countries throughout the world are seeking action to mitigate infection risk.
COVID-19 could be present on door knobs, elevator buttons, and other places that we make contact with in our daily lives. This also includes banknotes that are handed from one person to another, a situation that is driving a rising need for banknote disinfection. Financial institutions that handle massive amounts of banknotes are facing the urgent challenge of how to accomplish this.
These circumstances inspired Hitachi-Omron Terminal Solutions*, a provider of ATMs, moneychangers, and other products for financial institutions, to develop a currency disinfector that can rapidly disinfect banknotes. The company began offering the system to companies both in and outside of Japan in December of this year.
Inquiries from overseas banks triggered development
Ryosuke Takaoka of the Whole Cash Handling Solutions Promotion Division spoke on the development of the device as follows:
"As COVID-19 cases surge, we began receiving inquiries from banks in China and South Korea about whether we had a way of disinfecting banknotes. When I heard about this, I was certain that such needs would increase globally. I made it my aim to provide safety and confidence to the world by making it possible to easily and rapidly disinfect banknotes."
Financial institutions handle massive amounts of cash. Disinfecting it requires considerable time and labor.
One overseas financial institution introduced a device called a "UV cabinet," which utilizes a method of radiating bundles of banknotes placed inside the device using ultraviolet radiation.
However, the ultraviolet radiation could not penetrate into the bundles, making it difficult to disinfect all the banknotes. In the end, bundles taken out of the cabinet had to be "quarantined" for a period of two weeks to achieve disinfection.
In contrast, the disinfector developed by Hitachi-Omron Terminal Solutions uses a method that disinfects each banknote separately. Banknotes passing through the machine are irradiated on both sides with powerful ultraviolet radiation that instantly destroys viruses and viral DNA and RNA, resulting in complete disinfection. This rapid, one-by-one ability to disinfect is the device's major feature, with a processing capacity of 1,000 banknotes per minute.
The disinfector is also easy-to-operate. The user simply places a bundle of banknotes on the feeder tray on the disinfector's right side and presses the start button. The banknotes are immediately fed one by one into the machine. Disinfected banknotes are discharged successively into the receiver on the left side and stacked in one pile.
How to speedily disinfect large amounts of banknotes
Capable of disinfecting over 99% of corona-type viruses
Akira Nishino of Hitachi-Omron Terminal Solutions discusses the challenges faced during development, as follows:
"First we had to disinfect the entire banknote by completely irradiating both sides. Next, was preventing banknote jams inside the machine. Finally, we had to deal with how to discharge the heat generated inside the machine by the intense radiation. Such were some of the challenges we met in the course of development."
The problem of achieving complete ultraviolet irradiation and smooth conveyance was solved by the design of a structure of fine wire stretched through the inside of the machine. Heat dissipation was dealt with by mounting an internal cooling fan.
Hitachi-Omron Terminal Solutions has applied for patents for some of these design features. The company's extensive experience in developing numerous solutions for financial institutions also contributed to the development of the new device.
In order to evaluate the key factor of disinfection performance, Hitachi-Omron Terminal Solutions reached out to Dr. Takayuki Komatsu, associate professor of the Microbiology and Immunology Seminars, Aichi Medical University, who specializes in virology research, to provide verification testing.
Test results demonstrated that over 99% of coronaviruses and parainfluenza viruses—which have a structure similar to that of coronaviruses—on banknotes were inactivated, thereby succeeding in disinfection. According to Dr. Komatsu: "This is an effective product that promises to reduce the risk of viral infection through banknotes in circulation in the market.
Hitachi-Omron Terminal Solutions has started accepting orders for the currency disinfector at a price of about 3.5 million yen per unit for corporate customers. Already over 20 inquiries, including those from overseas, have been received. Takaoka talks about potential buyers:
"These are organizations that handle huge amounts of banknotes, such as the cash centers of financial institutions and security companies, large-scale commercial facilities, and overseas casinos. Recently, we held a web exhibition with video that enjoyed the participation of over 100 people from over 30 countries and regions. With interest being especially high in regions where COVID-19 is surging, our goal is to provide 1,000 units globally this term."
Expressing enthusiasm for future developments, Nishino, sales engineer for Hitachi-Omron Terminal Solutions, says: "In the future, we would like to develop a compact version that would fit into an ATM. In fact, we've already begun considerations for this."
*Company name changed to “Hitachi Channel Solutions, Corp.” as of July 1st, 2021