Researchers from Tel Aviv University have made progress to prove that the novel coronavirus can be neutralized both quickly and cheaply using ultraviolet light-emitting diodes (UV-LED), according to a new study published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology.
The research team, led by Professor Hadas Mamane, head of the Environmental Engineering Program at Tel Aviv University’s School of Mechanical Engineering, added that this particular UV-LED technology has the potential to be rolled out widely for both private and commercial use in the near future.
“The problem is that in order to disinfect a bus, train, sports hall, or plane by chemical spraying, you need physical manpower, and in order for the spraying to be effective, you have to give the chemical time to act on the surface. Disinfection systems based on LED bulbs, however, can be installed in the ventilation system and air conditioner, for example, and sterilize the air sucked in and then emitted into the room.”
She also noted that it is relatively easy to neutralize the virus with these LED bulbs—and that they could be a step up from regular bulbs in terms of overall safety.
“We killed the viruses using cheaper and more readily available LED bulbs, which consume little energy and do not contain mercury like regular bulbs,” Mamane said.
“Our research has commercial and societal implications, given the possibility of using such LED bulbs in all areas of our lives, safely, and quickly.”
For the study, the team conducted tests to garner data regarding the optimal wavelength for neutralizing the coronavirus. They eventually discovered that a wavelength of 285 nanometers (nm) was nearly as efficient in disinfecting the virus as a wavelength of 265 nm.
The result was deemed significant because the cost of 285 nm LED bulbs is much lower than that of 265 nm bulbs and that they are also much more readily available to the public.
The researchers, however, added that in some instances, it could be dangerous to use this technology to disinfect surfaces inside homes. To be fully safe and effective, the UV-LED system must be designed so that the user is not directly exposed to the light.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, using such bulbs “may pose potential health and safety risks depending … (on their) length, dose, and duration of radiation exposure. The risk may increase if the unit is not installed properly or used by untrained individuals.”
The agency continued: “Direct exposure of skin and eyes … may cause painful eye injury and burn-like skin reactions.”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.