The thermal implications of small, portable UV LED disinfection

June 27, 2017 // By John Cafferkey
LED technology is about to revolutionize the UVC disinfection market by enabling small, robust and portable applications that are not possible using traditional UVC technologies. However, as the technology gets smaller and the power gets higher one major challenge the industry needs to overcome is effective thermal management.

What are the benefits of UVC disinfection?

UVC disinfection is an extremely safe and effective way of killing bacteria and stopping the spread of pathogens. UVC light disrupts the genomes of microscopic organisms to kill bacteria. Thus, UVC light will disinfect any surface it is directed at. Unlike chemical approaches to disinfection, UVC provides rapid inactivation of microorganisms through a physical process. When bacteria, viruses and protozoa are exposed to the germicidal wavelengths of UV light, they are rendered incapable of reproducing and spreading infection.

UV light even works on chlorine-resistant pathogens like cryptosporidium and giardia, and can be used (alone or in conjunction with hydrogen peroxide) to break down toxic chemical contaminants while simultaneously disinfecting. In addition, UVC requires no transportation, storage or handling of toxic or corrosive chemicals, and UV treatment creates no carcinogenic by products that could adversely affect whatever is being disinfected.

 

There are also significant cost benefits of using UVC for disinfecting. Operating costs are largely limited to maintenance and electrical consumption. There’s less need to pay for cleaning chemicals (and the costs associated with the safe transportation and delivery of these chemicals). With UVC light you can also bypass or reduce the costs associated with chemical exposure, risk management and emergency planning and operator training.

Overall the benefits of UVC are huge. But there’s a catch that limits the number of applications it can be integrated into.

 

Current technology limits UVC applications

Traditionally, UVC disinfection devices use mercury lamps. These have large, fragile bulbs and the mercury contained in the them is a hazardous material, making UVC mercury lamps unsuitable for use anywhere where they could easily be broken.


Traditional UVC lamp — large, fragile and
impractical for small-scale everyday applications

This has tended to limit the use of UVC disinfection to fixed installations in applications such as municipal water purification, HVAC sterilisation, room and medical equipment sterilisation in hospitals, and sterilisation in factories that produce food and drink or pharmaceutical products.

 

UVC is now at a tipping point

The advent of LED technology that can operate effectively in the germicidal UVC range is set to transform this market, opening up the benefits of UVC to a whole host of new applications. The potential of the technology is so big that market analysts Yole Développement predict that the $7 million UVC market will explode to $610 million by 2021.

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