Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) is a disinfection method that uses short-wavelength ultraviolet (UV-C) light to kill or inactivate microorganisms by destroying nucleic acids and disrupting their DNA, leaving them unable to perform vital cellular functions.UVGI is used in a variety of applications, such as food, air, and water purification.
UV-C light is weak at the Earth's surface as the ozone layer of the atmosphere blocks it.UVGI devices can produce strong enough UV-C light in circulating air or water systems to make them inhospitable environments to microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, molds and other pathogens. UVGI can be coupled with a filtration system to sanitize air and water.
The application of UVGI to disinfection has been an accepted practice since the mid-20th century. It has been used primarily in medical sanitation and sterile work facilities. Increasingly it has been employed to sterilize drinking and wastewater, as the holding facilities are enclosed and can be circulated to ensure a higher exposure to the UV. In recent years UVGI has found renewed application in air purifiers.
The effectiveness of germicidal UV depends on the length of time a microorganism is exposed to UV, the intensity and wavelength of the UV radiation, the presence of particles that can protect the microorganisms from UV, and a microorganism's ability to withstand UV during its exposure.
In many systems, redundancy in exposing microorganisms to UV is achieved by circulating the air or water repeatedly. This ensures multiple passes so that the UV is effective against the highest number of microorganisms and will irradiate resistant microorganisms more than once to break them down.
"Sterilization" is often misquoted as being achievable. While it is theoretically possible in a controlled environment, it is very difficult to prove and the term "disinfection" is generally used by companies offering this service as to avoid legal reprimand. Specialist companies will often advertise a certain log reduction, e.g., 6-log reduction or 99.9999% effective, instead of sterilization. This takes into consideration a phenomenon known as light and dark repair (photoreactivation and base excision repair, respectively), in which a cell can repair DNA that has been damaged by UV light.
The effectiveness of this form of disinfection depends on line-of-sight exposure of the microorganisms to the UV light. Environments where design creates obstacles that block the UV light are not as effective. In such an environment, the effectiveness is then reliant on the placement of the UVGI system so that line of sight is optimum for disinfection.
Dust and films coating the bulb lower UV output. Therefore, bulbs require periodic cleaning and replacement to ensure effectiveness. The lifetime of germicidal UV bulbs varies depending on design. Also, the material that the bulb is made of can absorb some of the germicidal rays.
Lamp cooling under airflow can also lower UV output; thus, care should be taken to shield lamps from direct airflow, or to add additional lamps to compensate for the cooling effect.
Increases in effectiveness and UV intensity can be achieved by using reflection. Aluminum has the highest reflectivity rate versus other metals and is recommended when using UV