The Power of Light Keeps Making News

by | Jun 2, 2021

It’s been a little over a year since I began writing about the many different ways Pulsed Light can help protect us against COVID-19, from decontamination of airport security bins to safety in food processing.

If you’re new to the subject, Pulsed Light uses high-energy bursts of UV-C light, and this type of light can kill or deactivate virtually all pathogens on a surface, when applied for enough time and with sufficient energy. This includes the coronavirus behind the current pandemic.

This unique capability of UV-C light has led to a flurry of research and development over the past year, across a wide range of domains. In nearly every walk of life, UV-C light is making a difference. Any application that involves lots of people and high-touch areas can benefit from the technology—hospitals, warehouses, restaurants, event venues, offices, and just about everywhere people work and play.

Public transportation, Chinese bank notes, escalator hand rails and airline cockpits are just some of the UV-C disinfection applications which have emerged since the emergence of Covid-19.

In this blog, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what others are writing about the subject. Here are just a few of the products and ideas for UV-C light that have made the news over the last several months:

  • In October, the U.S. Navy announced it was investigating applications of UV-C light for its fleets. The Navy said it is looking into UV-C light “as a potential disinfection technique for niche applications against COVID-19 for materiel going onto a ship, for common use areas on a ship, and general room disinfection on ships or shore facilities.”
  • At least one company has developed a product that sterilizes the handrails on escalators on a continuous basis, exposing the handrails to UV-C light as they cycle underneath. Since our hands are a leading cause of exposure to illness, this kind of application could be a big help in keeping us healthy.
  • United Airlines has started using handheld UV-C devices to sanitize instruments in the cockpit of their planes. This is an application where chemical cleaners are not a good option, because they can damage the electronics. Any situation where chemicals and liquids could be harmful is an ideal application for UV light.
  • The central bank of China announced it was using UV-C light to sterilize banknotes, to ensure public confidence in cash currency. The article explains that while this may not be necessary from a scientific viewpoint, the government deemed public confidence important enough that it took the extra cautionary step.
  • China was an early adapter of UV light technology, and started using it in the first months of the pandemic to sterilize public transportation buses and rail cars overnight or when not in use. This is an important application, since transportation is essential for a functioning economy. In fact, XENON is working with a company on the possibility of apply UV Pulsed Light to a nation’s rail system.

Some of these applications use low-energy UV-C light  or related technologies, such as Pulsed LED. And some use high-energy pulsed xenon light, which is what XENON specializes in. This is an important difference. As a study published by the American Chemical Society affirmed last year: “The inactivation efficiency [of UV-C light] grows exponentially with the dose, which is proportional to both the exposure time and the light intensity.” XENON’s Pulsed Light delivers extremely high energies, and because of this, it’s able to work effectively in just seconds.

But whatever the specific technology, we should all be encouraged to see so much attention being paid to UV-C light. Every news article that appears helps to spread the message that there is a huge need and opportunity for researchers right now.

Even when the current pandemic is behind us, we’ll need to continue taking steps to protect against the next inevitable outbreak. To cite the study by the American Chemical Society once more: “…even when the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has passed, it will be important to maintain the generated knowledge and resources to deal with similar pandemics in the future. The global, high interconnectivity of human societies makes them inevitable.”

This is why XENON will continue working with researchers and product developers to find new applications for Pulsed Light. We invite you to bring your questions and ideas to our scientists and engineers, and together we’ll keep making news in public safety.