The rise in remote working, distance learning, and an increased interest in health monitoring during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to businesses and schools searching for viable solutions to get life ‘back on track.’
Mask-wearing, vaccines and wearable tech have led to a rise in medical and technological solutions to return us to ‘normal.’
And yet, one solution has already been proven to work for decades – UV technology. The use of UV-related technology as a factor in combating the virus is only going to increase.
According to a new study, the market for ultraviolet (UV) sensors is expected to grow by USD 2.69 billion during 2020-2024. Recent research indicates the use of UV in wearables and the internet of things (IoT) is also expected to accelerate.
This growth is more understandable in the context of getting back to ‘normal life,’ with the pandemic hindering people’s return to the office or children back to school unless they are vaccinated, have antibodies, or use a high-tech solution such as a wearable UV-C air purifier.
However, the use of UV-C to sterilise is not a new phenomenon.
UV-C technology: tried, tested, and already relied on by many
It has long been known that UV-C light destroys cells, and more importantly, viral matter and bacteria. For decades, UV light has been used to disinfect drinking water, pharmaceutical products, wastewater, air, and surfaces against viruses and bacteria.
During the pandemic, there has been an array of speculation and false claims around UV light and how UV disinfection is used that has unfortunately damaged the reputation of what is significant and groundbreaking science in this area.
A frequency of UV-C has been identified as effective against harmful viral and bacterial material. Therefore, faced with the challenges of COVID-19 and getting employees back to work, it is time to assess how UV-C technology might be able to help.
What are the three types of UV rays?
The most common form of UV radiation is, of course, sunlight, which produces three main types of UV rays:
- UV-A (315-400nm)
- UV-B (280-315nm)
- UV-C (200-280nm)
UV-A rays have the longest wavelengths, followed by UV-B and UV-C rays which have the shortest wavelengths.
Whilst UV-A and UV-B rays are transmitted through the atmosphere, the Earth’s ozone layer absorbs all UV-C and some UV-B rays.
Thus, most UV rays you come in contact with are UV-A with a minor amount of UV-B.
- Penetrates deep into the skin and causes ageing and damage to cells.
- Makes up around 95% of UV radiation.
- Does not contribute to tanning.
- Longest wavelength.
- Least effective at killing viruses and bacteria.
- Affects the top layer of the skin.
- Strongest between 10:00 and 16:00.
- Tans skin, but also causes burns and skin cancer
- Has a medium wavelength.
- Semi-effective at killing viruses and bacteria.
- It cannot pass through the earth’s ozone layer and reach the ground.
- Operates at the shortest wavelength.
- Safe as it can’t reach earth, but harmful if exposed directly.
- Has the shortest range of wavelengths.
- Very effective at killing viruses and bacteria.
UV-C technology for disinfection
Each year hospitals, maternity clinics and other medical facilities in many countries in the developing world close for an entire month for deep cleaning. In addition to the expected chemical and disinfectant cleaning that goes on, another more unusual practice occurs.
Overnight UV-C lamps fixed to walls and on trolleys are fired up, bathing the wards and corridors with UV light, a practice used to deep-sterilise areas usually thronging with ill patients, cross-contaminated medical staff and well-used equipment.
Russia has long been familiar with UV light’s effectiveness in the sterilisation process. In fact, at the beginning of the pandemic, they proceeded to sterilise all of Moscow’s Metro trains as COVID-19 became a threat.
China too also uses the same procedure across their public transport network, parking buses in hangars equipped with industrial-sized UV lamps to cleanse them of viral material overnight.
The rest of the world is catching on fast. Many major international airports invest in UV-C robots to sterilise terminal buildings and their toilets. Heathrow has reportedly spent over £210,000 on three such robots. Estonia has adopted UV-C wearable air purifiers to beat the virus.
Is UV-C technology safe?
In terms of UV light, people are most familiar with UV-A (315-400nm) and UV-B (280-315nm); the two types of UV light get through the earth’s atmosphere and reach the ground.
Although we know the dangers (and the benefits in the form of a nice tan) of UV-A and UV-B, we manage it by limiting our time in the sun, applying sunscreen and generally taking a sensible approach. We know that overexposure can cause sunburn and cancer.
It is this knowledge that has led to myths surrounding UV disinfection.
UV-C (200-280nm), on the other hand, introduces a slightly different challenge. It’s far more harmful than the others, and direct exposure to UV-C is dangerous for humans.
Just like UV-A and UV-B, UV-C light effectively kills airborne pathogens, in fact, even more so. Because it doesn’t reach the earth (as it gets successfully filtered by our ozone layer), close to no bacteria or viruses have developed resistance to it.
Therefore, used within a sealed unit away from direct human exposure, it’s one of the most effective ways to safely eliminate viruses and bacteria from air, liquids or surfaces.
The usage of UV light has been formerly associated with ozone production. However, ozone is only produced at short wavelengths. UV-C light at wavelengths of 242-315nm breaks down ozone into oxygen molecules.
More research into UV-C technology can be read here.
A tangible solution for all
Technology has always been the key to making life that little bit easier. In these challenging times, people are more receptive to solutions that can bring a little normality back to their lives or just take the strain out of daily life.
Practical solutions based on effective and reliable technology will always find a following.
The key is to offer something that’s not only useful but comfortable to wear and functional so office workers, teachers, customer-facing staff and business people can keep performing in their roles and avoid further lockdowns.
Respiray is one such UV-C technology product that is doing this – read how Respirary is being used as a tool to keep schools open.
Find out more about UV-C technology and how we’re using it to revolutionise mobile personal environment sterilisation.
*Please note: Respiray’s air purifier is not a medical-grade Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and in circumstances where medical-grade Personal Protective Equipment is recommended, you should consult a health care professional. Please remember that the use of our wearable air purifier does not replace the recommended measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. Follow the latest guidelines and rules of your local authorities and health care professionals.