Technology Briefing

Exploring How LED Technology Could Revolutionize UV Use In High-purity Water Systems

By Saketh Thanneeru

UV-C LEDs Water Disinfection Germicidal PearlAqua AquiSense

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Ultraviolet (UV) irradiation in water treatment has traditionally been associated with UV mercury-vapor lamps. UV light emitting diode (LED) technology has been seen as a future technology. In the author’s view, UV-LED technology development has reached the stage where it now has the capability to challenge the limitations of UV mercury-vapor lamps. Commercially available UV systems based around UV-C (200 to 280 nanometer [nm]) LED technology are beginning to emerge. This new UV technology appears capable of allowing for the use of UV in water treatment in ways that the technical limitations in mercury-vapor lamps do not allow. One example would be UV disinfection at the point-of-use.
This article highlights development of the UV-C LED technology and suggests ways in which it can replace traditional mercury-vapor lamps, or open up uses that are not possible with traditional UV. The article includes a discussion on ways UV-C LED’s can find use in semiconductor manufacturing.


Ultraviolet (UV) disinfection technology has been a standard water disinfection technology for many years. UV-C (200 to 280 nanometer [nm] disinfection effect) irradiation have proven effective in inactivating bacterial, viral, and protozoan pathogens, and has been demonstrated for point-of-use (POU) water disinfection (1). UV LEDs have enormous potential since they are smaller, lighter, and use less energy than traditional mercury-vapor lamps in UV disinfection (2).
Additionally, UV LEDs are mercury-free and have the capability to be turned on or off instantaneously. The potential of UV-C LEDs was envisioned toward the end of the 20th century and since then there has been significant amounts of investment and research focused onto the field. The number of manufacturers of UV-C LEDs has dramatically risen over the last five years as shown in Figure 1. It appears that UV-C LEDs are following a similar development path seen by visible LEDs, through an exponential decrease in costs, coupled with increasing power output. Notwithstanding the development progress of UV-C LED devices, they remain relatively inefficient in comparison to mercury-vapor lamps. Therefore, in order to commercialize water treatment products using UV-C LEDs, a more efficient reactor chamber is required.

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