When Colleen Costello’s grandmother contracted a bacterial infection during a hospital stay, a light bulb went off.

“What better use of my degree than to try to address what is one of the largest preventable issues in U.S. hospitals?” Costello said.

Costello co-founded Vital Vio in 2012 while a student at RPI. The company develops germ-killing LED lighting. Its patented VioSafe White Light Disinfection technology is designed to continuously kill germs on indoor surfaces.

“A specific violet wavelength of light is targeting molecules that are only in these germs, cells that are not in our human cells, and it causes a toxic to begin to happen within these organisms which eventually leaves the cell to basically die,” Costello explained.

“It kills a lot of your harmful germs that are on surfaces, everything from bacteria to mold, different funguses,” said Kristin May, Vital Vio's VP for Commercialization.

Vital Vio partners with manufacturers to bring their products to market. The startup recently worked with Evolution Lighting, based in Miami, to develop “Ellumi,” an under-cabinet light.

“Ellumi,” powered by Vital Vio, is available in four different sizes, beginning at about $100. You can purchase them online through companies including Amazon, Wayfair, Houzz, and now Home Depot. Users install it underneath a cabinet, turn it on, and the light begins killing germs.

Partners also include Duke University athletics. They use Vital Vio’s lights in training facilities.

In addition, Vital Vio works with Code 3. The St. Louis-based company is producing a germ-killing light for ambulances and other emergency vehicles.

Costello says she wants the lighting industry to understand products like theirs can benefit public health. She hopes to expand the Ellumi product line to offer a variety of sizes and shapes.

“We’re looking forward to protecting as many places and people as possible with this technology,” said Costello.