Guide to UV-C lighting as a disinfectant

LED iBond’s LED UV lighting technology

The disinfection properties of ultraviolet (UV) lighting on microbes have been known for over a century. UV wavelengths have since been used to disinfect non-porous surfaces, the air, and water. Combining this technology with LED lighting, UV-C LEDs have transformed the lighting industry and made modern life much more convenient. The global UV-C LED market is projected to reach US$18 billion by 2030, a testament to the growing power of this technology.

 

What is UV lighting?

Ultraviolet (UV) lighting is electromagnetic radiation that causes suntan and sunburn, among other effects. It is naturally present in sunlight, making up approximately 10% of the light output by the sun, and it is transmitted in waves of particles at different wavelengths and frequencies.

Over the years, artificial sources have been devised for different purposes. These sources include tanning beds, lasers, germicidal lamps, black lights, and more.

 

What is UV-C light?

Difference between UV and UV-C lighting

UV lighting is measured in nanometres and ranges from 10nm to 400nm. It contains sub-bands, UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C, come in. UV-A falls in the range of 315-400nm, UV-B falls in the range of 280-35nm, and UV-C falls in the range of 180-280nm.

UV-C lighting, with wavelengths less than 290nm, is considered to have disinfection properties, which means that it has the power to kill microbes on non-porous surfaces and in the air and water.

Microbes are microorganisms. Some of them have pathogenic qualities, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi, and they infect people or animals directly or indirectly, causing diseases in them. A few examples of pathogenic microbes are MRSA, C. diff, E. Coli, Pseudomonas, and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

 

How does UV-C LED light work?

In recent years, the germicidal properties of UV-C lighting have come to the foreground, and researchers have developed more technology around it. One of these innovations is the UV-C LED light source.

How LEDs work

To understand UV-C disinfection technology, we first take a look at how LEDs work. LED stands for light-emitting diode, and it is a semiconductor device that emits light when current is passed through it.

LED light sources can come in the form of tubes, panels, bulbs, and more. Compared to traditional light sources that require the heating up of a wire filament to produce light, LEDs light up with electrons and thus generally emit much less heat.

How UV-C LED light sources work

Simply put, a UV-C lamp ‘kills’ microbes by shining a light on them, which penetrates through their cell wall and alters or disrupts the cells’ DNA to render them ineffective. This process of using UV-C light to kill germs is often referred to as Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation or UVGI.

The effectiveness of UV-C’s germicide depends on the length of time the microbes are exposed to the UV rays and the intensity and wavelength of the light.

While UV lighting with a wavelength less than 290nm has disinfection properties, most UV-C products use 254nm light, and most far-UVC products use 222nm light. UV-C LEDs are generally 260 to 280nm.

 

UV-C LED lighting as a disinfectant

UV-C LED lights are used as a disinfectant. The process of disinfection is not the same as those of sterilisation and decontamination, and this difference must be pointed out.

Sterilisation is the destruction or elimination of microbes through physical or chemical methods, while decontamination is the process of making a space safe by removing or destroying harmful substances.

Disinfection eliminates pathogenic microbes on inanimate objects. This is what UV-C lighting strives to achieve, and it is in line with our mission here at LED iBond. The United Nations Global Goals are close to our heart, and with our work on UV-C LED technology, we hope to achieve the goal of good health and well-being by improving indoor hygiene and minimising the spread of contagious diseases.

 

Where UV-C lighting can be used

Killing pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and mould, UV-C LED lights can be housed in different light fixtures, from ceiling-mounted battens to disinfection chambers and trolleys, as well as portable, handheld devices. It all depends on the context in which the lights are employed.

In the home

Firstly, users can use UV-C LED lighting devices to keep their living quarters, pet crates, and car interiors germ-free. They can also use this technology to sterilise grooming tools in the bathroom and bedroom, such as towels, brushes, combs, nail clippers, and more.

UV-C LEDs can also be integrated into household air and water purification systems to kill pathogenic microbes and prevent airborne and waterborne illnesses.

In air travel

Many air travel hubs, such as the Raegan National Airport in the United States and Heathrow Airport in England, have employed UV-C LED disinfecting measures in indoor facilities.

Airport staff at Washington’s Raegan National Airport have used UV-C light to disinfect security checkpoint bins by running the used containers through conveyer belt systems and exposing them to UV-C light. This has been done to create a more hygienic security checkpoint.

At the same time, staff at London’s Heathrow Airport have deployed UV-cleaning robots to kill germs at night. They have also fitted escalators and staircases with UV handrail technology to ensure continuous disinfection throughout the day.

Inside aeroplane cabins, United Airlines have also begun employing handheld UV-C light devices to clean pilot flight decks to promote safety and cleanliness. Mainly, UV-C lighting devices have been used to kill germs on sensitive switches and touch screen displays inside planes.

In offices, warehouses, and factories

UV-C lighting can also be integrated into air purifying systems for disinfection purposes in collaborative workplaces, including offices, warehouses, and factories. By installing UV-C lamps in bathrooms, elevators, pantries, and other communal areas, building managers keep these spaces as clean as possible.

In hospitals

Caretakers and janitors in hospitals have also used UV-C LED lights to sanitise their surroundings. Particularly, they have turned to UV-C machines to sanitise the air in wards and corridors to cut down the transmission of harmful microbes.

This can be seen in the case of the three Duke Hospitals in North Carolina in the United States. The Duke University Hospital, Duke Regional Hospital, and Duke Raleigh Hospital have employed portable UV-C machines to deep-clean rooms where patients with certain targeted bacteria had been staying.

The machine emits UV-C light into the empty room for about half an hour, and the light bounces and reflects onto all non-porous surfaces inside the room, including hard-to-reach places such as the nooks and crannies of cabinets, drawers, and bed frames. According to Duke Health, adding the component of UV-C light in cleaning regimens involving bleach cut down transmissions of harmful microbes by 64%.

 

Benefits of UV-C lighting devices

There are myriad benefits of UV-C disinfection with the use of LED lights.

Quick disinfection anywhere

Firstly, innovation within the realm of UV-C lighting has allowed for miniaturised, handheld LED devices that have germicidal properties. These devices are light and portable, making them easy to handle. They can also be switched on and off instantaneously without cycling limitations. Disinfection from UV-C LED light sources can also take place within seconds to minutes.

Proven track record

UV Germicidal Irradiation as a disinfection technology has been around for over a century, and its effectiveness has been proven by countless university academics, lab researchers, and industry experts. Hospitals, offices, airports, and factories all use UV-C light to keep their gathering spaces clean and work equipment hygienic. UV-C lighting devices have helped reduce the transmission of bacteria and viruses.

Safe applications

UV-C lighting devices are also relatively safe as they do not contain any mercury. Mercury is a chemical element toxic to human nervous systems present in traditional UV-C products such as low-pressure mercury lamps. UV-C LED light sources also do not emit as much heat as traditional UV light sources, such as compact fluorescent and incandescent luminaires, making them safe for long-term and close-range usage.

Can be used anywhere

UV-C lights can be used on non-porous surfaces, and they can be integrated into water and air purification devices and systems. Additionally, thanks to the innovation of portable disinfection lighting devices, UV-C lighting can be employed in various places. These include hotels, restaurants, hospitals, clinics, shops, and more.

Long lifespan of LEDs

Last but not least, the use of LED technology in combination with UV-C technology means that disinfection lights reap the benefits of LEDs. The average LED luminaire on the market has a lifespan of about 50,000 hours, which translates to continuous illumination for about 6 years. Together with LED iBond’s patented thermal management technology, our average LED luminaire doubles its lifespan to around 100,000 hours, and users do not have to replace their LED light source for a good decade.

 

Get in touch

UV-C LED lights are an effective way to disinfect non-porous surfaces and our environments by purifying the air we breathe and the water we drink. Since the last decade, UV-C LED has been taking off, and the market is poised to keep growing to provide for us all a cleaner and safer future.

For more information on any of UV-C disinfection technology and our LED products, please email info@ledibond.com or call +45 7070 7855.

Guide to UV-C lighting as a disinfectant