What Are UV-LEDs and How Effective Are They?
With the COVID-19 pandemic raging, interest and questions about germicidal technologies are surging as well. UV-C light, UV lamps, and UV-LEDs have gone from being niche topics to becoming major talking points.
With the increasing demand for highly effective and environmentally-friendly disinfection methods, UV-LEDs, in particular, have emerged as a viable option.
Let’s look into their technology and potential.
What Are LEDs?
LED, an acronym for ultraviolet light-emitting diodes, is a solid-state semiconductor device. It produces light when an electrical current flows from the positive side of the circuit to the circuit’s negative side.
LEDs have become fairly common in recent years. Their two main purposes are illumination and indication. Therefore, you can find them in a wide range of electrical devices and other applications. Some of the most common uses are:
- Light bulbs and decorative Christmas lights,
- Car lights,
- Billboards and signs,
- Destination displays in train stations and airports,
- Camera flashes,
- Computer and smartphone screens,
- Horticulture grow lamps,
- Medical devices,
- And more.
What Are UV-LEDs?
Unlike standard LEDs, UV-LEDs emit UV-C rays with a wavelength of approximately 280 nm or shorter. Out of the different bands of UV light, UV-C rays have the shortest wavelength range. They also have the largest energy per photon in the ultraviolet spectrum.
This means that with the right dosage and intensity, UV-C light possesses the suitable germicidal properties required to destroy 99.99% of pathogens. UV-C light penetrates into their cells and changes the structure of their DNA and RNA, rendering them incapable of reproduction.
As a result, UV-C LEDs are becoming increasingly more popular in germicidal devices such as UV cleansers. They are replacing standard UV lamps, such as mercury vapor lamps, mercury-Xenon lamps, and UV-C pulsed Xenon lamps.
Are UV-LEDs More Effective than Standard UV-Lamps?
There are various ways in which UV-LEDs are superior to standard UV lamps. Thanks to the advancements in diode and lamp technology, scientists have witnessed that the irradiance produced by UV-LED light sources is increasing.
Furthermore, due to their monochromatic nature, they can use specific wavelengths to target and disinfect specific molecular bonds. Knowing that each pathogen varies in its sensitivity to specific UV wavelengths is beneficial. Standard UV lamps, however, have a broader spectrum and require more energy.
In comparison to incandescent lights, UV-LEDs are mercury-free and non-toxic. In additionally, they have a longer lifetime and have unlimited cycling throughout the day. And because they are solid-state light sources, they can be turned on and off instantaneously with no degradation. Standard UV lamps may require 30-60-second warm-up time and can degrade when being repeatedly turned on and off.
UV-LEDs can be battery operated, allowing more flexibility and convenience. These factors make them promising candidates for various applications in the healthcare and food industries. They are also used in other applications such as water treatment, curing, and more.
What is important to keep in mind is that not all LEDs produce UV radiation. When certain decontamination sectors need LEDs to project UV-C light, companies can custom-order them so that they release the optimum amount of UV radiation.
However, standard LEDs emit zero UV radiation, making them safe to use in our day-to-day lives but harmless to pathogens.
If you choose to use UV-LED devices for disinfection, remember that we humans have DNA and RNA, too. So, exposure to UV-C light without protective gear like gloves and goggles can cause burns, skin cancer, as well as eye damage.
Other than that, the demand for UV-LED technology is expected to grow in the future. After all, they provide innovated, improved, and expanded solutions in both water and air treatment.