Coronavirus: Ultraviolet light for disinfecting public areas

Coronavirus: Ultraviolet light for disinfecting public areas

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Kill corona viruses with ultraviolet light

Previous studies have already shown that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus can be killed with ultraviolet light. An American-Japanese research team has now paved the way for the manufacture of portable devices that produce ultraviolet light. These could be used to disinfect public areas in the future.

In cooperation with two Japanese universities, researchers at Pennsylvania State University have developed a concept that enables the production of portable devices that generate ultraviolet light and thus kill coronaviruses from the air and on surfaces. The research results were recently presented in the renowned journal "Nature Communications Physics".

Ultraviolet light - a well-known method of disinfection

There are two common methods of cleaning and disinfecting areas of bacteria and viruses - chemicals or ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The UV radiation is in the range of 200 to 300 nanometers and is known to destroy viruses. Such processes are of interest, for example, for the treatment of drinking water.

No suitable UV source available

During the coronavirus pandemic, efforts are being made to use this disinfection approach. So far, however, there has been a lack of UV radiation sources that emit sufficiently high doses of UV light. So far, expensive mercury-containing gas discharge lamps have been used for this, which require high power but at the same time have a relatively short life.

UV lamps with LED technology

This is where the American-Japanese research team started. The researchers were looking for a way to develop a powerful LED UV light with emitting diodes. According to the study, such a UV source would be easier to transport, more durable, more energy-efficient and more environmentally friendly.

Difficulties with the right material

"You have to ensure that you have a sufficient dose of UV light to kill all viruses," explains Professor Roman Engel-Herbert from Pennsylvania State University. A high-performance UV LED must emit a high intensity of UV light. This property is currently limited by the electrode material. This problem is already known in the manufacture of displays, smartphones and LED lighting. "There is simply no good choice of material for a UV-transparent conductor material that has been identified so far," added Joseph Roth, a doctoral student from the study team.

A new transparent UV conductor

According to the researchers, the search for a new material with the right composition is the key to high-performance UV LEDs. In the study, the team examined a recently discovered class of transparent conductors that could possibly solve this problem. It is a material called strontium niobate (SrNbO3).

The path to high-performance UV LEDs is paved

The Japanese universities have managed to atomize the material using a process called "sputtering", so that it deposits on a desired material as a wafer-thin film. According to the study, this is a decisive step on the way to technological maturity, which enables this new material to be integrated into UV LEDs in large numbers at low cost.

What could such LEDs be used for?

"While our first motivation in developing UV-transparent conductors was to develop an economical solution for water disinfection, we are now realizing that this groundbreaking discovery may offer a solution to deactivate COVID-19 pathogens in aerosols," sums up Roth.

This could be used, for example, in frequently frequented public areas such as theaters, cinemas, sports stadiums, public transport and aircraft to kill the germs at regular intervals. However, this is only possible if no people are present, since the UV light damages the skin. (vb)

Read also: Ultraviolet light destroys SARS-CoV-2 viruses.

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Yoonsang Park, Joseph Roth, Daichi Oka, u.a .: SrNbO3 as a transparent conductor in the visible and ultraviolet spectra; in: Nature Communications Physics, 2020,
  • Pennsylvania State University: Killing coronavirus with handheld ultraviolet light device may be feasible (published: June 1, 2020),

Video: UV light bacteria-killing robot deployed in Wuhan (January 2023).