How It Works

How It Works

We have all felt the power of UV after spending a summer day outdoors.  The sun is a powerful source of UV energy; even the slightest overexposure gives us a sunburn. Continued overexposure to UV energy can be quite harmful, but the UV spectrum offers many beneficial characteristics as well. With the right control and application UV energy can be used for UV disinfection of water, purify air and surfaces, cure adhesives and coatings and sterilize tools, just to name a few.

Ultraviolet light occurs just below the color violet which is the lowest wavelength of visible light to the human eye. The electromagnetic spectrum of ultraviolet light is typically subdivided into the following ranges:

The sun emits ultraviolet radiation in the UVA, UVB and UVC bands, but because of absorption in the atmosphere, 98.7% of the ultraviolet radiation that reaches the Earth's surface is UVA. Ordinary glass is partially transparent to UVA but blocks UVB and UVC. This feature gives sunglasses and eye wear UV protection capabilities. A positive effect of human UVB exposure is that it induces the production of vitamin D in the skin.

UVC rays are the highest energy form of ultraviolet light. Since UVC rays are filtered by the Earth's atmosphere, organisms have not developed a natural defense against UVC energy. When the DNA of a microorganism absorbs UVC energy, molecular instability occurs resulting in the disruption of the DNA sequence. This renders the cell unable to grow or reproduce. Without the ability to reproduce the cell cannot infect and it rapidly dies.

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Inactivating Microorganisms

The application of UVC energy to inactivate microorganisms is known as Germicidal Irradiation or UVGI. It has been used for this purpose since the early nineteen hundreds. Artificial UVC energy is produced in germicidal ultraviolet lamps which produce UV radiation by ionizing low pressure mercury vapor. These lamps are similar to typical fluorescent household lighting fixtures but do not have the phosphorescent coating which imparts the soft white light. Ionized mercury emits a predominately discreet wavelength of 254nm - in the UVC band and, as it happens, is an ideal wavelength for disrupting the DNA of microorganisms.

The amount of UVC energy needed to inactivate a given microorganism is measured by dose, which is determined by a combination of irradiation energy and exposure time. Scientists have determined the rates at which various microbial populations decline due to exposure to biocidal factors such as UVC irradiation. Based on mathematical modeling, UVDI engineers have developed proprietary and third party validated computer modeling programs to estimate deactivation rates for target microorganisms and subsequently design UVC systems that will efficiently and effectively disinfect the air, surface or water situation of interest.