The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday November 27th

When's the last time you washed your water bottle? These UNC students want to help.

DTH Photo Illustration. A student fills up their water bottle. QUVI is launching a pilot program at UNC to eradicate bacteria from students' reusable water bottles by using UV-C light.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. A student fills up their water bottle. QUVI is launching a pilot program at UNC to eradicate bacteria from students' reusable water bottles by using UV-C light.

Whether studying on-campus or taking a walk, many college students rely on reusable water bottles daily. 

And after a team of UNC sophomores noticed a lack of ways to sanitize these bottles, they set out to create a product to meet this need.

Alekhya Majety, Harshul Makwana and Kush Jain developed QUVI, a reusable water bottle sanitation device. In March, the team intends to release a prototype of the device at a UNC residence hall, in order to receive feedback from students and fine tune its invention. The team will work with the University as part of a pilot program, Jain said.

The team hopes to sell its product to UNC and other universities so students can enjoy communal access to QUVI in residence halls. 

“It will let UNC students test out our product and see what they like about it and see what improvements we can make, but also just get the word out,” Jain said.

QUVI is unique to other products on the market due to its design, which uses multiple LED lights, Jain said. The product employs a dual system with interior and exterior LEDs, allowing sanitation of the entire bottle, he said.

Majety said the product utilizes UV-C light to deactivate the DNA and mRNA within viruses and bacteria to prevent reproduction. 

“It has been used in the medical industry for several decades to sanitize their equipment," Majety said. "Recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been increasing in use for regular people as well."

After observing the unclean water bottles their peers drank from in their first year, Makwana and Jain developed the idea for QUVI. 

“We realized there was a really big health risk that a lot of students understand but do not fully grasp the magnitude of,” Makwana said. “We wanted to make sure that we provided a solution that is convenient and accessible.”

Makwana said that, due to the relevance of sanitation during a pandemic, the product is especially timely. 

“We know that people are looking for a solution now, but they are not able to necessarily find one,” Makwana said. “At the same time, having a clean water bottle is something anyone would want to have regardless of the pandemic.”

Majety, Makwana and Jain would like to expand their sanitization products beyond their focus on water bottles. 

“Because of COVID, we really realized that it is more than just bottles that need to get sanitized,” Jain said. “There are personal belongings and things like face masks and keys and glasses that we could actually sanitize.”

The team has received acclaim for its skills, winning $500 for second place at the Carolina Challenge Makeathon and $1,000 for first place at UNC's Pitch Party Competition, Majety said. 

They received more funding from outside UNC as a part of the Clinton Global Initiative COVID-19 cohort, where Majety, Makwana and Jain are one of 38 teams selected from 1,400 applicants across the world, Makwana said. 

UNC provided resources for the team to launch its project and try out new ideas, Jain said. The team has received help from University mentorship programs and facilities, crafting its first prototype in the Carmichael Makerspace. 

As a pre-med student, Majety was unaware of the resources available to her as a creator, but she found extensive help from UNC. 

“There are so many mentors and there are people where their job is literally to help students who have an idea like this,” Majety said. “So many people have advice and experience and have started businesses. They give you the means to do everything, so you might as well take advantage of that.”

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