CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — At first glance, it looks like an oversized bug zapper, but it kills a whole different kind of bug.

Amid talk about hard-to-kill viruses spreading not only illness but also public fear, a metro Grand Rapids firm has turned to an unexpected way to combat the problem: light.

Skytron‘s IPT 3200 robot emitter uses ultraviolet rays in the C band to basically short circuit viruses’ DNA.

“Which is ultraviolet germicidal irradiation. And UVC, for short, is extremely effective at disrupting the DNA sequence in microorganisms including bacteria, virus spores,” Larry Perez, Skytron’s vice president of regulatory and technical services, explained.

It’s so powerful that humans cannot be in the same room when the blue tower, which stands about 4 feet tall, is fired up.

“You don’t want to be in the room with it,” Perez said. “As we said earlier, it’s harmful to DNA. Since we’re all composed of DNA, you certainly don’t want to be in the room.”

Skytron has been supplying the room sterilization technology to hospitals and other medical facilities for about a decade. It is now expanding marketing efforts to other facilities like jails and schools.

You see it every year at about this time: students and teachers call in sick in droves and schools shut down. Crews try to rid the building of bugs through a combination of disinfectants and elbow grease, but it doesn’t always kill all the germs.

“What’s unique about micro-organisms is that they are incredibly resilient and they’re incredibly adaptive,” Perez said.

That includes to both chemical and environmental conditions.

“So thinking that you cleaned it and that you’re safe after cleaning it … laboratory test show that there’s more there,” Perez said.

For about $45,000, the approximate cost of the smaller version of the IPT 3200, Perez says a janitor could set the unit up at night, close the door and let the units go to work.

Sensors tell the unit the size of the room and how many waves to throw out.

“And it’s going to deliver a smart dose. It takes the human guess work out of thinking, ‘Did I leave it in this room long enough?'” Perez said.

A special lock would shut the machine down if someone tries to open the door.

“This is part of the answer in containing some of the problems that we’re dealing with currently, as well as managing what I would refer to as some of these epidemics that we’re managing right now,” Perez said.