What Are the Uses of Ultraviolet Light?
Since we first discovered ultraviolet light over 200 years ago, we’ve come to better understand this type of electromagnetic radiation and how we can safely harness its power. Now, UV light has a range of applications in many different industries, from aiding scientific research to supporting hygiene and infection control procedures. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most effective uses of ultraviolet light.
Ultraviolet Water Purification
Water plays a vital role in all of our lives, but one thing most people don’t think of when rehydrating or taking a shower is the way water is disinfected and purified. Ultra Violet light can be used to treat and disinfect different types of water, making it safe for humans to drink, bathe and swim in. UV water purification systems can protect against microorganisms, bacteria and viruses, without the need for any chemicals. Water passes through UV water systems and ultraviolet rays penetrate and destroy harmful pathogens and microorganisms.
Ultraviolet technology can also treat wastewater, making it suitable for reuse and minimising the negative environmental impact of sewage. Treating wastewater with UV light can prevent contamination of water sources, and stop diseases such as e-coli from spreading.
UV water purification has become one of the most popular water treatment methods because it’s cost-effective, environmentally-friendly and safe. Without any added chemicals, UV water treatment systems don’t affect the chemical composition or oxygen content of water.
UV Light for Disinfection and Sterilisation
As well as disinfecting water supplies and sewage, ultraviolet light can disinfect and sterilise objects and air spaces. Disinfection methods such as Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) use short-wavelength ultraviolet (UV-C) to kill or inactivate harmful microorganisms. The UV light does this by destroying the nucleic acid of cells and disrupting cell DNA.
UV disinfection is fast and effective and can be used to disinfect facility air spaces, tools or equipment. It is particularly useful for sterilising and disinfecting items such as laboratory PPE (personal protective equipment) and healthcare equipment. Many businesses and facilities rely on ultraviolet light as an important part of hygiene and infection control procedures.
Ultraviolet Light and Astronomy
Astronomists rely on ultraviolet light to observe objects in space. Many astronomical objects emit UV rays, and the hotter the objects are, the more UV light they will emit. For example, the sun is the largest source of UV light in our solar system, and naturally, it’s also the hottest.
By observing objects in space, and monitoring the UV light they emit, astronomists can learn about the temperature and chemical composition of objects such as other planets. UV light measurements can also indicate the evolution of other galaxies.
Cosmetic Treatments Use UV Light
When thinking of the uses of ultraviolet light, most people’s minds jump straight to cosmetic treatments. UV light is used in sunbeds at tanning salons, but also to treat skin conditions, whiten teeth, and dry freshly painted fingernails in seconds.
UV Light as a Cancer Treatment
Ultraviolet light is a form of radiation, so it can cause sunburn, ageing of the skin — it can even cause skin cells to become cancer cells. However, despite the dangerous effects of too much sunshine, UV light can be used to treat some cancers.
Much like how UV disinfection methods can destroy or inactivate harmful microorganisms in water, air or on surfaces, UV light can also destroy cancer cells. Patients with certain types of skin cancer take a drug called psoralen, which makes the skin temporarily sensitive to UV light. UV light is then targeted at the affected area so it can kill cancer cells.
Fluorescent Inspection with Ultraviolet Light
Ultraviolet light can cause materials usually invisible to the naked eye to become visible. Some materials absorb the energy from UV rays, and when exposed to ultraviolet light, they become fluorescent.
This characteristic of UV light can have a range of applications. UV beams can help inspect materials and structures for splits, breaks and defects. UV can also aid forensic teams to analyse the legitimacy of banknotes, documents and paintings, and illuminate latent fingerprints at crime scenes. UV light can also cause bacteria on your hands to glow when used with Glo-Germ gel — a trick that schools and businesses like to use to demonstrate the importance of hand hygiene.
Water treatment is one of the most effective uses of ultraviolet light and at atg Evoqua, we offer industry-leading UV disinfection systems. For more information about the benefits of UV water purification, and the best systems to use, contact our team of experts — we’re always happy to help.