Ultraviolet LED Lights Kill Bacteria and Viruses
May 14 2012 12:57 PM ET
A new breed of energy-efficient LEDs could disinfect drinking water and sterilize surgical tools using bacteria and virus killing ultraviolet (UV) light.
“UV treatment utilizing LEDs would be more cost-effective, energy efficient and longer lasting,” Ramón Collazo, a material scientist and engineer at North Carolina State University, said in a statement.
“Our work would also allow for the development of robust and portable water-treatment technologies for use in developing countries," said Collazo, who is helping develop the system.
Other researchers have tried to use UV LEDs to kill pathogens before, but the materials previously used to create the lighting absorbed those very wavelengths of UV light that are necessary for sterilization.
But Collazo and his team think they have figured out a way around this dilemma. Using computer simulation, they've found that trace carbon atoms used in the LED manufacturing process were responsible for absorbing the UV light. So by eliminating the carbon, scientists could significantly improve the amount of pathogen-killing UV light that gets through.
“Once we identified the problem, it was relatively easy and inexpensive to address,” study coauthor Zlatko Sitar, also of NC State, said in a statement.
The research is detailed online in the journal Applied Physics Letters.