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In recent years, we have had the opportunity to address one of the topics of the moment several times, namely, the relationship between LED UVC lighting and Covid-19. As mentioned by IUVA, UVC light has been widely used since the early 1980s in the disinfection of water, air, pharmaceuticals and surfaces against numerous pathogens.

In this article we try to clarify the strengths of UVC LEDs, the aspects to pay more attention to and those that need further clarification.

Table of Contents

uvc led

LED UVC and Covid-19

To date, there is no research or text that can give any assurance that the disinfecting action of UV can also have an effect on the specific strain of coronavirus. Although there is all the evidence to show that UVC technology also has a disinfecting effect on Covid-19, it is therefore difficult to take it for granted that the efficacy on the virus is 100%. It should also be emphasized that UVC is able to mutate or inert the virus, changing its chemical composition and making it less aggressive and effective, but is not able to eliminate it. Recent studies are aimed precisely at finding dosages and timing to define efficacy on both zeroing and reducing bacterial load.

The available wavelengths

When approaching UVC lighting (254-280nm), most of the bibliography refers to 254nm, which is the reference wavelength that has always been available with standard mercury lamps. 275nm (270-280nm) is the only available and reliable wavelength in the world of LED lighting, which has the same sterilizing effect as standard mercury lamps. However, neither of the two wavelengths is centered at the point of maximum sanitization effectiveness and virus vulnerability.

We have mentioned only two wavelengths, 254nm and 275nm, as these are the only options you can actually work on at the moment. As for the others, such as the 222nm, we talk more about them for studies and patents, but they are very expensive (excimer lamps, specifically), which have even lower wattages than LEDs and are still to be validated and tested, also and above all on the issue of harmfulness to human beings compared to LEDs and mercury lamps.

Why prefer UVC LEDs to traditional sources?

  • While conventional lamps emit only part of the light spectrum in the UVC range, with efficiency in this band of less than 45%, a directly selected LED with controlled emission within the spectrum can give us greater efficiency and reduced power requirements;
  • The construction of the LED makes it easier for us to scale the product and direct the light output itself, as secondary materials such as optics can be used;
  • They have greater flexibility in terms of design thanks to the size of the source, the different available powers and the operating voltages, characterized by a low operating voltage (6-8 Volts) which facilitates their safe use with battery systems;
  • They do not give rise to problems related to the pollution, management and disposal of mercury;
  • They have a 10-15% greater incisiveness in the destruction of the virus as they are closer to the point of maximum effectiveness, recognized in 265nm;
  • Compared to traditional lamps they do not emit ionizing frequencies, therefore they do not generate ozone (equally harmful to humans).

The necessary precautions and the IEC/EN 62471 standard

Another important aspect to insist on is the need to take precautions: to date, the IEC/EN 62471 standard is the only one in force on this subject and it also covers the UV emission spectrum, although no clear distinction is made between the A, B and C bands. The UV-C range does damage our skin cells, but it is not as penetrating as the UV-A range. We therefore know that there may be problems in using this application, which is potentially harmful to humans. In the same way that UV-C can inactivate bacteria and viruses, it can also be harmful to human cells, which also contain DNA.

The regulations always recommend using UVC technology in a professional way. If you can avoid human exposure to this type of radiation, you do not risk harming people. However, there are protection tools to use UVC LED lighting even in the presence of people. The IUVA (International Ultraviolet Association) has also strongly recommended that anyone using UV light to disinfect medical equipment, surfaces or air (or any application supported by solid scientific evidence) should follow all health and safety precautions and avoid direct exposure of the human body to UV light.

Why is UVC LED technology so expensive?

  1. It is very difficult to make and there are not many semiconductor manufacturers with efficient and reliable AIGaN (Aluminium gallium nitride) technology to date;
  2. It has special ceramic packaging and quartz window;
  3. The chip has a difficult structure to optimize.

Conclusions

Finally, as with all light sources, LED is not the only existing solution in the UV field. What unites the different UV lighting technologies is the need to take precautions in use and to use special materials and products to ensure correct operation and a product life commensurate with expectations. In the case of LEDs, the use and choice of accompanying products such as optics, sensors, drivers and dedicated power supplies is crucial.

Universal Science's UVC solutions

Demand for UVC LED lighting has grown exponentially over the past year, driven by the Covid-19health emergency. In addition to the decades of work of Universal Science's R&D team in the UV field, characterized exclusively by custom projects based on individual customer requirements, standard solutions with UVC LEDs have been added, designed not only to meet the numerous requests, but also to provide customers with ready-to-use solutions in a shorter time.

In 2021 the SpecialRED - UV lighting product family was born, with the aim of expanding the proposal dedicated to UV solutions over time.

Useful links

  • To learn more about Universal Science's services and strengths in the field of UVC LED lighting, please refer to the dedicated section.

  • To make the search for answers on the use of UVC for disinfection even more exhaustive, the IES (Illuminating Engineering Society) has provided an in-depth FAQ section

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