While dark emitting diodes (DEDs) are generally considered a niche product, used mostly for military camouflage and high-end custom lighting effects, they may also be a highly effective tool for combatting the coronavirus. A team of researchers at YoYo Dyne Systems had been experimenting with using high-intensity DED emissions as a bacteriostatic agent for sterilizing hospital rooms, operating theaters, and food-processing facilities when they accidentally discovered they had a similar effect on many common viruses. Preliminary tests indicate that the coronavirus is highly susceptible to their dark influence.
The DEDs used in YoYo Dyne's tests are actually Zener-enhanced DEDs (ZeDEDs), based on the original phonic buffering junction (PB&J), which enabled the company to produce the world's first commercially available DEDs in the late 1980s. The new devices employ a hybrid structure whose properties closely resemble a cross between a Zener diode and a Peltier-effect cooler.
YoYo Dyne, a defense contractor based in historic Grover’s Mill, NJ, claims that the first products based on its new ZeDEDs produce 10X more darkness for a given input power level than the best UnDED (Unipolar DED) devices available today (see "A Closer Look at ZeDEDs" below).
John Worfin, YoYo Dyne's director of research, said that they had originally discovered ZeDEDs' bacteriostatic effects when a technician left his lunch in the lab where they test and calibrate high-powered DED arrays used in military camouflage systems.
"When we discovered the lunch that Pat had forgotten a few weeks earlier, we expected to find a proverbial ‘science experiment,’ with Tupperware containers full of putrid food," said Worfin. "To our surprise, the mac and cheese, egg salad, and Jell-O salad were not rotten, and not much more disgusting than the day Pat bought them to work. In fact, it took some convincing to keep Pat from eating them," concluded Worfin.
The team determined that the output of the high-intensity DED arrays being tested in the room had penetrated the lunch box and disrupted the metabolism of the bacteria attempting to establish a foothold on the food. After verifying the effect, Worfin directed the team to work with nearby Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center to see if DED arrays could be used in a medical setting. Mobile sterilizers, equipped with large clusters of high-powered ultraviolet LEDs, are already being used by some hospitals to control bacterial infestations. However, they cause eye damage to anyone in the area not wearing eye protection. In addition, UV sterilizers can miss shaded areas that don't get direct exposure, and their light cannot penetrate containers or materials, such as bed linens.
Using the camouflage system's array as a makeshift test article, the researchers learned that DED emissions can only penetrate an inch or two of most materials, but colleagues from the medical center reassured them that it would be more than enough to make a big difference in a hospital setting. It was during those preliminary tests that, out of curiosity, the research team tested their effect on the coronavirus. "We were as surprised as anybody" said Dr. John B. Bootay, leader of the medical research team. "Those ugly little viruses can't stand the absolute darkness the DEDs generate. It's as if they have the life, or what passes for life in a virus, sucked right out of them," he concluded.
In light of the current medical crisis, YoYo Dyne launched a crash program to accelerate its schedule for putting its DED-based sterilizers into high-volume production. Their announcement that the first units would be available for sale before the end of April caught the industry by surprise, causing a rapid sell-off of stocks of several other LED manufacturers.
“This announcement even caught us by surprise,” said John F. R. Cutbait, Chief Product Evangelist at YoYo Dyne, during an exclusive interview with ED. “We'd been planning on introducing our ZeDED sterilizer at the LED/MED 2020 Expo next month, but the COVID-19 crisis pushed things forward. But it wouldn't have been a secret much longer anyway since the stealth aircraft we've been working on with the Air Force that uses a similar technology hit the news yesterday afternoon,” he concluded. (See the story “Air Force reveals its new aircraft cloaking system uses dark-emitting diodes” for details).
YoYo Dyne's ZeDED devices are available in several standard darkness ranges, with maximum output ranging from 10 to 150 snemul. Samples are available now, with volume production scheduled for 3Q 2020. Pricing is available upon request by contacting YoYoDyne Propulsion Systems at their web site: http://yoyodynepropulsionsystems.com/.
A Closer Look at ZeDEDs
ZeDEDs consist of a small semiconductor chip with a P/N junction coupled to an embedded quantum vacuum cavity. When reverse-biased, the cavity absorbs photons proportionally to the current flow through the junction. Unlike conventional UnDEDs, which can only emit darkness, the DED-Z junction has a bimodal structure (Fig. 2). This allows them to emit light like a conventional LED when forward-biased and operate in DED mode when reverse-biased. In its DED mode, the ZeDED's junction undergoes a Zener-like breakdown from a highly efficient photonic extinction region that produces an extremely intense beam of darkness.
Thanks to their higher efficiency and compact form factor, YoYo Dyne's ZeDEDs have made dark-emitting technology a practical reality for several applications, including active camouflage for law enforcement and military personnel, as well as wealthy sportsmen. They’re also finding applications in high-performance light shields that completely eliminate light pollution generated by streetlights and other outdoor lighting equipment.
ZeDEDs are also expected to find applications in theater, theme parks, or wherever the thrill of a spooky experience can be enhanced by hyperadrenalinosis , a condition frequently caused by the total absence of photons. NliteN, a company that develops and manufactures advanced SSL technologies, has already announced plans to address this market with products that pair their heatsink-less bulb IP with YoYo Dyne's ZeDEDs. An anonymous source said that their rather aggressive bulb darkness design target is around 40 snemul/watt (for those who are unfamiliar with the metric system, there are 2.54*pi salednac per snemul).
Editor's note: Electronic Design thanks YoYo Dyne Propulsion Systems for its cooperation and support in the preparation of this exclusive feature on the ZeDED technology. As part of the agreement that made this story possible, Electronic Design has redacted the most sensitive details and agreed to publish it as an “April Fools satire.” To the skeptics who wonder if this is a joke or a conspiracy being perpetrated in plain sight, we say: “We report—you decide.”
 A tip of the propeller beanie to the folks over at NliteN Inc. for providing the device symbol they developed for their own ZeDED products. The Oregon-based electronics manufacturer, which created the symbol, has submitted it to JEDEC for approval as a standard design element at their June 31st quarterly meeting.
 Hyperadrenalinosis—also known in street vernacular as STFOOY (Editor's note: the “F” is silent or sometimes muttered)