In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, protecting yourself from virus infection is paramount. Face masks, social distancing, and hand-washing have been the mainstays in this regard. But it has also been recognized that ultraviolet light systems offer disinfection properties as well. As a result, solutions using ultraviolet light disinfection are being pursued, offering another coronavirus-fighting strategy. Not only can such systems save on cleaning costs and chemical use. But they can also be more effective and thorough in the process.
The demand for ultraviolet light disinfection has spawned a number of innovations and startups in this industry sector. The pandemic has been a major catalyst in this regard. In fact, ultraviolet light systems are projected to expand exponentially in the coming years. From products that can be used to clean sporting equipment to systems designed for public spaces, the industry is fast-evolving. Thus far, production and solutions have been unable to keep up with demand. But thanks to several bold businesses, that’s about to change.
“People are afraid. Everyone is looking for ways to clean up these environments — with chemicals, wipes, shields and UV robots. We’re selling a light that you can’t see to kill a germ you can’t see.” – Robert Olson
An Overview of Ultraviolet Light Disinfection
The knowledge that ultraviolet light disinfection occurs isn’t something new. In fact, Niels Finser, a Danish scientist, made the discovery at the turn of the 20th century. But the problem has been the effects that ultraviolet light systems might have on human beings. Traditional ultraviolet light operates at higher wavelengths. These types of ultraviolet light can penetrate human skin and eyes and cause harm. However, ultraviolet light systems on the far end of the spectrum are actually safe. And at the same time, it continues to have germ-killing effects.
By definition, ultraviolet light is not visible to the naked eye. However, three wavelength spectral groups have been defined for ultraviolet light. UV-A light ranges from 315 to 400nm in wavelength, and UV-B light ranges from 280-315nm. These groups are effective at killing bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. But they are not able to be employed around people. UV-C light, however, which ranges from 100 to 280nm, has the potential to be safe as well as germ-fighting. This is the ultraviolet light range many new innovations are exploring.
“The fact that far-UVC light can be used in the presence of people is a real differentiating factor. By harnessing these benefits as part of a user-friendly product that can be quickly deployed, we hope to provide a much-needed boost to our partners across the entertainment industry who are currently struggling to attract wary customers.” – Zoran Veselic, President and COO, Christie
Innovative Ultraviolet Light Systems Offerings
Traditional ultraviolet light systems and products have been around for decades. Indeed, with the pandemic, industry leaders have seen a rise in their demand grow substantially. As a result, the industry is pivoting in its responses. Philips’ ultraviolet light division, Signify, has ramped up its own product 8-fold as a result. But in addition, several other startups and new companies have entered the market as well. The following are some that are introducing some exciting ultraviolet light disinfection products today.
This Israeli-based startup recently launched the first indoor circadian ultraviolet light system in the world. Called its “J. Project System,” its product emits high-quality surface light mixed with UV-A and UV-C light. Its ultraviolet light disinfection rate is 99.9 percent, and it’s completely safe around people. Its systems have already been deployed in parts of Central and South America. And with a recent $18 million in Series C funding, Juganu plans to launch in the U.S. as well.
- Christie (Ushio Inc.)
Using Ushio Inc.’s patented ultraviolet light system, Care 222, Christie has developed a line of safe ultraviolet light disinfection products. Ushio Inc. evolved out of technology developments that began at Columbia University. Today, it offers safe ultraviolet light products that kill 99.7 percent of germs. And likewise, it too is safe around people. The intended use for Christie’s products for a variety of entertainment venues, such as theme parks, stadiums, and museums. Likewise, they’re ideal for bathrooms and lobby areas as well.
- Waypoint Interiors
This Everett-based company has been around since 1994 as an aerospace solutions business. But after the pandemic, it set its sights on develop ultraviolet light systems to help disinfect planes. Partnering with Hubbell Lighting, Waypoint designed Viralite, which emits two types of light. The first light, which is blue, disinfects air cabins while in use and is safe around people. The second light, which is ultraviolet light, disinfects all surfaces when the plane is empty. Waypoint Interiors is ready to mass-produce its ultraviolet light disinfection product. And they hope to serve not only planes but buses and trains as well.
“After more than 10 years of waiting, in 2020, the UV LED market could ramp up and reach the billion-dollar mark very rapidly. There is good in everything bad, and the recent COVID-19 pandemic has created some perfect use-cases for the technology to spread across a rapidly-changing disinfection/purification market.” – Pars Mukish, Business Unit Manager, Solid-State Lighting & Display, Yole[iii]
An Industry About to Explode
The ultraviolet and LED lighting industry has had steady growth for years. In 2019, the industry was estimated to be $144 million globally in value. This then more than doubled in 2020 to over $300 million. Now, forecasters suggest the industry will be worth roughly $2.5 billion by the year 2025. This is all a result of the pandemic and the demand for ultraviolet light disinfection solutions and safe spaces. The ability to develop products that are both safe and effective has been the key to meeting market demand. And newcomers to the scene appear to be answering the call.
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