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Curious about UV LED technology? This article dives into the history of UV LEDs from UV-A blacklights to present day UV-C applications and the Violed brand.
What are UV LEDs?
UV or ultraviolet electromagnetic radiation products, having expansive industrial and commercial applications, have been around a long time mostly in the form of mercury or fluorescent lamps. Ultraviolet LEDs (UV LEDs) are a newer technology that have a much longer operating life and increased environmental sustainability. Applications range from curing printing inks, sterilizing water and air, to modifying plastics and other substrates.
The lower ultraviolet light wavelengths, specifically UV-C, have very promising prospects in the field of sterilization and disinfection. Violeds, a leading brand of UV LEDs, has technology that can kill SARS-CoV-2, or Covid-19, in less than one second and is harmless to the human body. Yes, you read that correctly. Violeds eliminates Covid-19 in under a second and recent studies show that the same can be said of the delta variant. As can be imagined, the potential for UV LED technologies is massive given its real-world implications for public health and safety.
History of UV LED
What wavelengths are UV LEDs?
The sun is a source of the full spectrum of ultraviolet radiation which is commonly subdivided into UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. Wavelengths are measured in nanometers (nm). The typical light source spectrum ranges from Ultraviolet Light (UV-C: 200 to 280nm; UV-B: 280 to 315nm; UV-A: 315 to 400nm) to Visible Light (400 to 760nm) and Infrared Light (760 to 3000nm).
UV-C has a wavelength between 200 and 280nm. UV-C is completely blocked by the earth’s atmosphere, so it does not make it to earth by means of the sun. Because the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere blocks most of this band, almost none of it reaches the earth’s surface.
UV-A has a wavelength between 315 and 400nm. In general, UV-A is the least harmful type of ultraviolet radiation because it does not burn the epidermis and can therefore be used for practical purposes such as tanning, counterfeit detection and document validation.
UV-B has a wavelength between 280 and 315nm. This type of radiation is partially blocked by ordinary window glass or clothing fabrics but causes sunburn and other damage to human tissue. UV-B is used for germicidal lamps, tanning lamps, suntanning booths, and some types of photography.
UV-C has a wavelength between 200 and 280nm. UV-C has germicidal applications because it damages the nucleic acids in microorganisms. This band cannot pass through ordinary glass or clothing fabrics.
UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C are used in a variety of applications including the curing of printing inks, adding a functional group to plastics and other substrates by acryloxy or amino groups, sterilizing water, pool water, and food products such as milk. In addition to determining whether a product is spoiled or contaminated, UV can be used in applications such as photocatalysis for water purification and disinfection. The sterilization process kills all microorganisms including spores which the ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) method of air, surface, and water decontamination uses to achieve maximum microbial kill rates.
UV-A lights have been around the longest and are also the cheapest available of the 3 main wavelength bands. Used for counterfeit detection or validation of currency, driver’s license, official documents, etc., this category has enjoyed longevity in the market. A combination of the low power output for these applications and an ease of manufacturing has driven the price down over the years, making it an affordable and accessible technology.
UV-B, or the “middle” wavelength application, has seen the greatest growth over the last decade. This range is used to cure commercial and industrial materials such as adhesives, coatings, and inks. UV LED lights in this range offer more advantages over traditional mercury or fluorescent lamps like increased energy efficiency, lower cost of ownership, and miniaturization.
Rapid advances in manufacturing as well as increasing volumes are steadily driving down prices. The “lower” UV-A and “upper” UV-B ranges (approximately 300nm – 350nm) were introduced to the marketplace over the last couple decades. These devices pose the potential to be used in a variety of applications including UV curing, biomedical, DNA analysis, and different types of sensing.
UV-C has recently gotten its start in commercial and industrial applications through use in air and water purification systems. There are very few companies in the world capable of manufacturing UV LEDs in this wavelength and even fewer that make a product with sufficient lifespan, reliability, and performance. Because of this, devices in this range can be costly and, in almost all cases today, cost prohibitive. The first commercial UV-C LED based disinfection system came in 2012 and helped to get the market started.
Seoul Viosys & SETi
What is Violeds?
Sensor Electronic Technology, Inc. (SETi), the global leader in UV LED technology, and Seoul Viosys collaborated to create Violeds, a leading brand in the UV LED technology space. According to Seoul Viosys, “Violeds is a clean technology that can be used for disinfection, deodorization, phototherapy and curing.”
Advantages of Violeds Technology
A short lifespan is something that has held back the UV LED product market since its inception. This is perhaps the most pivotal constraint that Violeds has eradicated. For products that have been available in the UV LED market, an operating life of 5,000 hours was the industry standard. SETi and Seoul Viosys have 10X’ed that with the Violeds operating lifespan of 50,000 hours.
Combine that with the ability to miniaturize and the consistent performance that LED technology provides, and this will undoubtedly replace the mercury and fluorescent lamp market quickly. It may be the rocket fuel this market needs to quickly surpass $1 billion in a couple years. NASA is already using Violeds in the International Space Station.
Increasing market applications
For a new market segment to really take off you certainly need a wide range of product and industry applications across the market. Due to the globe’s current struggle with airborne pathogens, most notably viruses, the range of applications is nearly endless and indeed demand is already pent up. These applications span both commercial and consumer industries alike from at-home air purifiers and industrial HVAC air purifiers to high-touch surface disinfection devices.
Sterilization and deodorization of the home has for a long time created a significant demand and need for chemicals inside the house. The home cleaning industry has been around for a long time and is called home by behemoth brands such as Lysol, Windex, and Clorox to name a few. While you can rest assured you’re killing germs when using such products, they don’t come without their own drawbacks.
Aside from the aforementioned dangers of inhaling chemicals, there is also risk associated with other avenues of possible exposure. Most chemicals used in these products are downright dangerous if exposed to eyes, ingested, or sometimes absorbed through the skin. Throw a toddler in the mix at home and you’re going to need to invest in some cabinet locks or get creative with how you store chemical-based cleaning products. Until these companies come up with a chemical or compound that is harmless to humans this will always be an issue.
Violeds technology offers a solution for this problem in the household cleaning industry, which is perhaps one of its greatest competitive advantages. Violeds technology is harmless to humans. UV lights and their disinfection capabilities have been around for a long time, but at-home use was deemed dangerous in broad applications due to lamps containing mercury. If a bulb were to break at home, that would mean exposure to mercury which is far more dangerous and permanent than the risks associated with regular home cleaning chemicals. UV LEDs remove mercury from the equation entirely.
Ultraviolet light can still be dangerous, but Violeds do not pose a risk to humans. We are already seeing Violeds taking hold in some consumer-based household appliance markets. SK Magic, the largest household appliance company in South Korea, is using Violeds technology in its air purifiers. RGF, the No. 1 U.S. in-duct air treatment supplier is already using Violeds technology in more than ten different models. Home appliance companies in China, Europe, and Japan have followed suit and are rolling out their own products utilizing Violed technology.
Commercial & Industrial Applications
Outside of the home, the possibilities for product applications are as deep as they are wide. One of the most apparent is the opportunity in air sterilization and purification. More specifically, there is a prime application opportunity for industrial HVAC systems in airports, hospitals, hotels, and all other highly trafficked buildings. These solutions take indoor air that has already been circulated and more than likely breathed by humans and feeds it through a UV LED that then sterilizes the air by eliminating germs and airborne pathogens. Once the air has been disinfected it is then recirculated through the space.
One company in particular has jumped out in front of this space: illumiPure. Houston, TX based illumiPure has developed Air Guardian, an enclosed air disinfection chamber that kills >99% of airborne pathogens, including viruses, mold, and bacteria. Air Guardian uses Violed technology in its four-stage protection process. Fans first draw air into a titanium dioxide (TiO2) filter, then flow the air through a chamber coated with proprietary material and lit with UV-A light, then pass the air through a long chamber with UV-C LED light, and finally send the exhaust air through carbon filters.
Going a bit deeper within the public spaces segment, there are opportunities for high-touch surface disinfection systems and devices as well. Products are being developed and already hitting the market that are used to disinfect high-touch surfaces from handrails and doorknobs to counter tops and shopping carts. Other product applications include water purifiers, insect traps, nail curing, medical devices, industrial curing, and counterfeit detection.
Another exciting – and potentially the most explosive – market segment for Violeds technology and UV LEDs is the auto industry. Violeds has already made inroads here and mass production for vehicles will begin in 2022. Seoul Semiconductor Co., Ltd plans to demonstrate Violeds technology and its disinfecting capabilities at CES 2022 (Consumer Electronics Show).
The aforementioned SETi and Seoul Viosys are affiliates of Seoul Semiconductor Co. The use of Violeds technology in cars is said to dramatically reduce the probability of infection caused by viruses floating in the air or on interior surfaces of the vehicle. Experiments conducted by Seoul Semiconductor at in-house laboratories have led the company to laud that Violeds technology can sterilize more than 90% of the viruses floating inside the car within ten minutes.
UV LED lights are an exciting, innovative technology with the potential for a wide array of applications and – best of all – a tremendous impact on public health and safety around the globe. Violeds, the brand currently lighting the way for the industry on many fronts, has been introducing helpful solutions like improved disinfection for consumers and businesses alike. We hope you enjoyed this article and feel hopeful and inspired by these UV LED technology innovations.
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