How Ultraviolet-C lighting can support Europe’s recovery

The potential of UV-C lighting to rapidly destroy traces of Coronavirus and other viruses from surfaces can be crucial in building a post-pandemic world, argues Signify’s Neil Pattie.
UV-C disinfection chamber being used to disinfect self-scanners at EDEKA’s supermarket in Hamburg | Source: Signify

By Neil Pattie

Neil Pattie is Head of Corporate Content at Signify.

10 May 2021

UV-C lighting has long been used as a disinfectant against deadly microorganisms, but its true potential is yet to be realised.

Ultraviolet-C (UV-C) is a type of electromagnetic radiation that consists of wavelengths between 100 and280 nanometres (nm). At a wavelength of 254nm, it is highly effective in breaking down the DNA and RNA of viruses, effectively deactivating them and rendering them harmless.

While the antimicrobial potential of UV-C isn’t new, the now widespread need for the technology was until recently confined to niche markets. That was, until the COVID-19 pandemic.

But, as we move towards a post-pandemic world, there’s a strong case for UV-C to become normalised in the mitigation of viruses, andthe technology should therefore feature prominently in national recovery plans across Europe.

“We should not overlook the disinfection power of UV-C to thwart other serious airborne infections such as seasonal flu and tuberculosis."

“We should not overlook the disinfection power of UV-C to thwart other serious airborne infections such as seasonal flu and tuberculosis”

Emile van Dijk, head of Signify’s UV-C team

“UV-C lighting is currently proving itself in the fight against the virus causing COVID-19,” says Emile van Dijk, who heads up Signify’s UV-C team. “However, we should not overlook the disinfection power of UV-C to thwart other serious airborne infections such as seasonal flu and tuberculosis, which cause deaths and sickness every year.”

Last year, the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories at Boston University tested Signify UV-C light sources against SAR-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19.

Testing UV-C light sources | Source: Signify

“Our test results show that, above a specific dose of UV-C radiation, viruses were completely inactivated: in a matter of seconds, we could no longer detect any virus,” says Dr Anthony Griffiths, Associate Professor of Microbiology at Boston University School of Medicine.

Laboratory tests showed that Signify light sources irradiating the surface of a material inoculated with SARS-CoV-2 reduced the virus to below detectable levels in as few as nine seconds for the dried virus and four seconds for the wet virus.

“We’re very excited about these findings and hope that this will accelerate the development of products that can help limit the spread of COVID-19,” Griffiths adds.

Since then, the company has expanded its production capabilities and UV-C lighting portfolio with a new range of lamps, luminaires, trolleys and chambers which are being used for a wide variety of professional applications.

“We have introduced 12 families of UV-C lighting fixtures specifically designed to disinfect air, surfaces and objects,” says Harsh Chitale, Leader of Signify’s Digital Solutions Division, emphasising that the new range is targeted at “offices, schools, gyms, retail stores, warehouses, as well as on public transport.”

Opportunity for Europe and nations planning their post-pandemic future

UV-C is a powerful disinfectant and exposure to light sources, but certain wavelengths of UV-C radiation can damage the skin and eyes of humans and animals. As the disinfection of surfaces requires direct exposure to the light source, the disinfection cycle must only take place when people or animals are not present. Not surprisingly, Signify’s surface disinfection luminaires are built with safety in mind and are meant to be deployed with features such as remote-control capabilities, timers, and motion sensors.

There are also products that are designed to be used with people or animals present in the room, such as upper air disinfection luminaires and chambers. They are designed to shield people from the UV-C light source.

“Laboratory tests showed that Signify light sources irradiating the surface of a material inoculated with SARS-CoV-2 reduced the virus to below detectable levels in as few as nine seconds for the dried virus and four seconds for the wet virus”

EDEKA Clausen, the German supermarket chain has installed 31 Philips UV-C disinfection upper air luminaires in its large Hamburg store. Air in the store is disinfected while shoppers go about their business underneath the irradiated zone. The retailer also uses a disinfection chamber. It resembles a microwave oven and is used to quickly disinfect objects such as self-scanners.

Life beyond the pandemic

Signify realises that the rollout of various vaccines will gradually help to control the spread of the pandemic, but we argue that UV-C has a wider role to play in helping to prevent the spread of airborne diseases.

In September 2020, World Health Organisation Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that COVID-19 “will not be the last pandemic”. This underlines a need to invest in technology for future mitigation.

As EU countries plan for a stimulus spending spree, there is ample scope to include UV-C technology in building renovation projects.

“Given the cost of sick days and that staff are the most valuable asset of a company, it makes sense that they take practical measures to protect their employees,” says Harry Verhaar, Signify’s Global Head of Public & Government Affairs. “It would be timely to incorporate UV-C technology into building codes and for it to be baked into many of the 35 million building renovation projects earmarked across EU Member States.”

As these Member States work on their national recovery and resilience plans, here at Signify, we believe UV-C lighting is a technology whose time has come.

Click here to see how else lighting can help you reach Green Deal targets here.

Click here to visit the Green Switch website.

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