2020 has been a year lacking in travel, work, gatherings, and more. What hasn’t been lacking during the COVID-19 pandemic however is innovation. The entire world is focused on creating new ways to continue some semblance of daily life – including new methods of keeping surfaces and spaces virus-free.
One of the most popular disinfection methods reported on this year is UVC light – short for Ultraviolet-C light. This technology, as innovative as it seems, is not necessarily new. UVC light’s properties were first noticed back in 1877 by British physiologist, Arthur Downes. He discovered that the sun, which gives off UVC light, could kill limit the spread of bacteria. Years later, others built on this knowledge through studying the prevention of measles, E. coli, tuberculosis, and other viruses and bacteria. Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, many are focused on ways to implement this effective commercial cleaning method in high-traffic spaces.
What is UVC Light?
Before we dive into UVC light’s commercial cleaning capabilities, we’ll step back to examine what it is. First, UVC light is a type of radiation. Radiation is the emission of energy from a source. That source could be manmade like a microwave, or natural like the sun.
UVC light is also more specifically a form of electromagnetic radiation. This type of radiation is electromagnetic waves carrying energy through space. There are different types of electromagnetic radiation, and all are on an electromagnetic spectrum. Every form of electromagnetic radiation on this spectrum has its own frequency, or the number of wave cycles that occur each second. The higher frequency of the radiation, the more energy it has.
UV light falls on the higher end of the electromagnetic spectrum, above visible light – which produces the colors we see in the world. UV light comes in three distinct forms, A,B, and C, each with more energy than the last. UVC light is the most intense, energy-packed light of the three.
How UVC Works:
We said UVC light is the most energetic of UV light, and all UV light carries a great deal of energy. But how does this energy translate to effective commercial cleaning? High energy radiation breaks down molecules. This means the radiation’s energy destroys living tissues – including bacteria, viruses, and other living creature – cleaning the areas it touches.
The closest thing you can witness in your everyday life of the effects of UV radiation is getting burned from being in the sun without sunscreen. While the Earth’s Ozone keeps most of the higher energy radiation from reaching your skin and causing real damage, some UV radiation makes it through causing burns and other harm. Just imagine what stronger UVC light could do to viruses!
Who Uses It Now?
Scientists for years have harnessed radiation energy, specifically from UVC light, to kill viruses and bacteria molecules. Pre-pandemic, UVC light disinfection was mostly found in hospital and laboratory settings. These places have high probabilities of bacterial and viral contamination and require routine, complete sterilization. Now, industries are looking to utilize UVC light to disinfect airports and planes, shopping malls, and more.
The Pros of UVC Light
UVC light can fully disinfect spaces, effectively reducing virus and bacteria spread. UVC light uses no additional chemicals, so there are no potentially harmful chemical residues or fumes left behind. Because of it’s properties, UVC light disinfection assures a thorough level of cleaning compared to other manpowered methods.
The Cons of UVC Light
At first glance UVC light seems like the perfect solution to pandemic commercial cleaning and disinfection needs. However, the method has some significant drawbacks.
First, UVC light is dangerous to humans. Remember the sunburn analogy? UVC light not only destroys viruses and bacteria. Exposure to UVC light radiation can cause severe burns of the skin and eye injuries. Because of this risk, UVC light should not be used in currently occupied spaces.
Second, UVC light’s effectiveness is limited. UVC light only works in it’s direct light path and can be blocked by other objects. This means that everything needing to be disinfected should be directly exposed to the UV light. For larger spaces, this would require multiple light sources to clean from different angles.
Third, UVC light’s effectiveness is also reliant on the exposure time. The UVC radiation doesn’t kill viruses and bacteria instantly but degrades microorganisms overtime. For example, to sterilize surgical equipment before a surgery, this may take up to 5-10 minutes under a UVC light. To disinfect an 8 foot container, this could take upwards of 30 minutes under UVC light. When comparing these items to large commercial spaces, the time needed to properly disinfect an entire room could be hours.
Should the FX250 Also Use UVC Light?
Discovery Robotics’ FX250 is made to assist human janitorial staff in cleaning large commercial spaces. While UVC light has amazing disinfection and sterilization properties, the disadvantages of UVC light outweigh the advantages for large commercial spaces. Because of its hazardous properties, The UVC light could not be utilized alongside human traffic. The time it takes to disinfect with UVC light also makes it an inefficient option for cleaning large commercial spaces. Obstacles like furniture would also block the disinfection efforts and increase cleaning time needed unless multiple light sources are employed.
For all these reasons, UVC light is not a perfect solution for disinfecting commercial areas. Discovery Robotics appreciates the innovative thought that is being put into combating the COVID-19 pandemic and is excited to see where this innovation takes us next! Learn more about us today, and sign up for our Discovery Robotics newsletter for future FX250 updates. For questions or more information, please contact us at info@disc overyrobotics.com.