Disinfection with UV light

The Heraeus Blog on scientific findings, trends, new products and exciting application examples

Mode of action and scientific evidence

How does UV light affect germs?

Air, water and surfaces usually contain a large amount of germs. Some are harmless, while others can cause a serious health risk for people.

The microorganisms present in the air - such as viruses, bacteria, yeasts and moulds - occur particularly in heavily frequented areas such as airports, doctors' surgeries, hospitals and in industry. They endanger the health of people, contaminate raw materials or spoil food.

UV radiation reliably reduces germs and improves hygiene and storage conditions. To reduce the level of germs in the long term, the germ-contaminated air can already be disinfected in the supply air ducts.

The short-wave UV radiation in particular has a strong bactericidal effect. It is absorbed by the DNA of the microorganisms and destroys their structure. In this way, the living cells are inactivated.

Are there already studies on whether UV light safely deactivates germs?

Heraeus Noblelight has been working for many years with various institutes and research facilities, such as the Fraunhofer Institute. It has been scientifically proven that UV light in an appropriate dose makes germs harmless.

Studies with comparable germs suggest that UV light can also be used against the COVID-19 virus. Several research institutes are already conducting scientific studies in this area.

There are numerous sources for disinfecting germs with UV light on the internet:

What are the current application areas in which UV light is used for disinfection?

UV disinfection is used in a wide range of applications and industries.

UV lamps are already used in
- food processing industry,
- Pharmaceutical industry,
- hospitals,
- doctor's offices,
- Labs,
- Clean rooms,
- Offices with and without air conditioning,
- highly frequented public facilities such as airports, cinemas etc.

Especially the following applications benefit from the use of UV light:

Design parameters

Which parameters must be observed for qualified reduction?

Our UV experts have developed a simulation tool that can design your system precisely to your required disinfection performance. We take into account the disinfection parameters specific to the target bacteria.

Afterwards, we can equip your system with the appropriate emitters, which are precisely tailored to your problem.

An interpretation could look like this picture.

What is not possible with UV light? Where do we see risks?

Which emitters are used in the fight against viruses, bacteria and fungi?

For the disinfection of germs, so-called UV medium pressure, UV low pressure and also UV amalgam lamps are suitable. Depending on the requirement criteria, the appropriate lamp can be selected in consultation with a UV expert. Criteria can include
- the time available to inactivate a germ
- the energy consumption
- the required wavelength range
- the acquisition costs
- the size/ compression of the emitters
and much more.

However, when selecting the lamps, care should be taken to ensure that they are not ozone generating. The mechanism of action of ozone (via hydrocarbon) is completely irrelevant for germs.

Suitable emitters are:

Why can't we simply install UV lamps in all public facilities and irradiate the interiors?

Since people usually stay in public spaces, it is unfortunately not possible to irradiate these with UV light over a large area. The UV light is harmful to people when exposed to direct radiation. It should not reach the skin or eyes, as it can cause burns. In shielded areas, such as in ventilation systems, it can be used well. In this way, the air that is led into public spaces can be treated sterilely before it enters.

It is also possible to use UV on surfaces of any kind, for example in cleaning systems for surgical instruments.

Heraeus solutions

Who can purchase UV lamps for disinfection from Heraeus Noblelight?

Heraeus Noblelight is active in the B2B business, which means that the company may only sell UV lamps and systems for disinfection to other companies.

Please understand that we cannot offer consumer goods.