Pulsed Light: Like a Breath of Fresh Air

by | Apr 11, 2022

Pulsed Light is one of the most versatile technologies in the world. Harnessing the power of the sun, it’s being used to sanitize surfaces, enhance nutritional value in foods, improve food shelf life, and cure special materials, among other things.

What could possibly be next? No one knows for sure, but XENON’s new VP of North American sales said in last month’s blog that the next big application for Pulsed Light might be in HVAC air sanitization, especially in public buildings and transportation systems.

Based on reports coming in from government, science, and industry, there’s a good chance he might be right.

What the science says about UV light

The U.S Food and Drug Administration reports that UV light can inactivate pathogens, including the SARS2 Coronavirus. Their web page is worth reading because it explains the various kinds of UV light and why some are more effective than others.

All UV light can kill or deactivate pathogens like the coronavirus, and its effectiveness depends mostly on exposure time and energy. Low energy UV-C light is often offered as an HVAC solution, but its weak energy output means it is only marginally effective. By contrast, with optimum design and engineering, Pulsed Light has been found to deactivate up to 99.9999% of exposed pathogens, making it the most effective choice available.

A Pulsed Light approach to HVAC safety

According to an article on facilitiesnet.com, there are two ways that Pulsed Light can be used for general-purpose sanitization.

One approach is called “luminaire” air disinfection, which uses an enclosed fixture to take in air from the surrounding area and run it through a filtration device. A luminaire solution would prevent exposure to the powerful Pulsed Light energy while neutralizing pathogens at a much higher rate than low-energy UV-C light alone. And, as the article explains, this type of system “is able to treat the air and turn it over numerous times per hour in the space where the occupants are located.”

Another approach is intense room disinfection, which is already being employed in settings like hospital rooms. These solutions use a device to blast rooms with intense Pulsed Light to decontaminate the air and surfaces in a short amount of time. It is an incredibly effective solution that can deactivate the most dangerous pathogens within seconds, but it can only be used when a room is unoccupied.

Protecting our most vulnerable citizens

An obvious application for Pulsed Light is in the many buildings that serve our most vulnerable citizens, such as hospitals and senior communities. An HVAC system that incorporates a Pulsed Light protection would provide significant protection, and would also be a major selling point to attract occupants.

A recent mcknightseniorliving.com article emphasized the importance of effectiveness in these communities:

“Although the decimal place seems trivial, there is a big difference between 99% and 99.99% scientifically…With vulnerable populations, that difference matters. Verify a system’s effectiveness with its lab results and aim for as close to 100% as possible.”

As we’ve seen, Pulsed Light comes closer to one hundred percent than any other UV light technology.

Next steps

Like any technology, Pulsed Light has its own trade-offs. While it’s more effective than other air treatments, it also requires much more power and therefore more planning and design to make it work safely in a building or vehicle. Larry Fletcher of RFG Environmental Group recommends that building owners and HVAC designers work with manufacturers to find solutions: “They can provide assistance in determining the correct configuration, associated installation layout and identify potential challenges.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us the painful lesson that our public places are not as safe as they could be. Will air sanitization be the next big application for Pulsed Light? XENON is working on it. If you’re a researcher, OEM, or end user who would like to collaborate with us on product ideas, please contact our team of scientists and engineers. Together, we can make our world a little safer.