Sanjay Kumar and Harald Maiweg
Acuva Technologies Inc.

The UV-C band around 260-285 nm, near the peak of RNA/DNA absorption is considered today to be the optimized spectral range for Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation. Within the last few years, UV-LEDs exhibited outstanding efficacies in water disinfection, and recently achieved  extremely fast and effective performance in inactivating the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These placed UVC-LEDs among the most promising and viable disinfection technologies for the years to come.

Advancements in UV-C LEDs enabled applications for developing safe and effective solutions not only for water, surface and, air disinfection, but also for protection of everyday person in a post-COVID-19 world. Now, companies are deploying UV-LED based solutions where the use of traditional mercury based lamps was even not possible. The rapid innovation has reduced the cost of ownership significantly and more and more startups are joining hands in making this world a better place by providing a safe environment in all three dimensions – Water, surface and air.

The response from the market has been phenomenal so far and the disinfection/purification market is growing with a CAGR of more than 200%. The number of companies involved in the R&D and commercialization of UV LED products have grown by at least 20 times in last 5 years. The industry has achieved market’s confidence in terms of reliability, affordability and effectiveness. Despite all these positive advancements, UV-LED disinfection industry is still facing challenges in terms of certifications standards and unambiguous definitions. For instance, the guidelines from regulatory bodies and certifying agencies are not crisp, mostly confusing and at times absent, which is limiting the use of UV LED based solutions.   

In this presentation, the emergence of UV-LED technology and the new applications enabled by this technology from research and commercialization standpoint will be discussed. In particular, we will present a landscape, the so-called UV-LED technology roadmap, and will show how the paradigm is shifting towards UV LED. Finally, we will review the companies active in the commercialization of technology and discuss the future direction of the industry and what needs to be done to strengthen it as a whole.

UVC (200 – 280nm)
Also known as shortwave UV or deep UV, includes “common” germicidal UV wavelength (ie. 254nm) used for air, water and surface purification. Acute (short-term) effects include redness or ulceration of the skin. Long term risk for large cumulative exposure includes premature aging of skin and skin cancer.

UVB (280 – 315nm)
A small but dangerous amount of sunlight. Most solar UVB are absorbed by the diminishing atmosphere ozone later. Prolonged exposure can be hazardous to human eyes and skin, but it has beneficial effects for vitamin D production and treatment of severe skin diseases.

UVA (315 – 400nm)
Longwave UV, also known as “black-light, represents the dominant UV in sunlight and is responsible for skin tanning. UVA is generally not harmful and can be used in medicine to treat certain skin diseases.

LED Technology – A Success Story Since 1962

2020 vs. 2025

The UVC LED market is expected to grow from $308M in 2020 to $2,504M in 2025.

Source: Yole

Design Considerations to Optimize UV-LED Performance

MATERIAL SELECTION
Acuva’s UV-LED water disinfection modules are designed with stainless steel construction which provides a robust and reliable purification performance over a long lifetime. Stainless steel is naturally resistant to mineral build-up and is NSF-certifiable. Acuva’s STRIKE series for flexible OEM integration, are certified by IAPMO R&T against NSF/ANSI 55 Class ‘B’ for material safety and structural integrity and NSF/ANSI 372.

 

 

 

FLOW RATE AND DISINFECTION
UV-LED performance is based on the flow rate and disinfection rate. Acuva’s modules are designed for flexible configuration based on length, disinfection rate, flow rate and life time. The patented design maximizes disinfection efficiency of UV-LED light – creating collimation that is ideally matched to the velocity field of flowing water.

Challenges and Conclusion

CHALLENGES

  • Definition of validation and certifications from regulatory bodies is ambiguous and not
    well established and, in some cases, doesn’t even exists
  • Unproven claims or wrong validation methodologies applied by some new entrants is
    damaging the reputation of UV-LED Industry
  • Perceived value Vs cost – UV-LED systems are compared with incumbent technologies in terms of price limiting the market penetration
  • The long certification time cycle hinders the mass adoption and eventually revenue potential
  • Potential consumers are losing trust due to lack of expertise and unprofessional practices by suppliers trying to ride on the pandemic wave by offering sub quality/performance products

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO STRENGTHEN THE INDUSTRY

  • The industry body needs to come together to get solid certification and validation standards establish
  • Market needs to be educated via more events like ICULTA with media coverage
  • A government- private partnership may reduce the certification and validation time and may shorten the time to market.
  • Government incentives can be placed to encourage OEMs to adopt UV-LEDs as an environmentally friendly alternative to mercury-based UV sources (aligned with Minamata convention)

UV-LED disinfection/purification market is growing with a CAGR of more than 200% and UV-LED has enabled applications where the use of traditional mercury lamps was not even possible. With the increasing power and decreasing cost of UV-LEDs, it would be interesting to witness the wave of replacement of traditional UV lamps with LEDs.

References:
Yole Annual Report: 2018
Nature Photonics | VOL 13 | APRIL 2019 | 233–244

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