Can UV LEDs damage your eyes?

Lamp on, virus gone?

So far, UV-C light has mainly been generated using mercury vapor lamps. The Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technology and Image Evaluation, on the other hand, relies on LED technology: For over three years, the researchers worked with the special vehicle manufacturer Binz to develop a system for disinfecting an ambulance. The LED spotlights are more expensive than the classic mercury lamps, but from the point of view of the scientists they offer several advantages. They are vibration-proof, non-toxic, more durable and work in the optimal wavelength between 265 and 270 nanometers - they destroy the pathogen's DNA much more efficiently. And while the mercury lamps first have to heat up, the LED spotlights reach their full output at the push of a button.

The ambulances are still cleaned by hand according to an extensive work schedule and disinfected with chemical agents, which can take up to an hour. With the UV-C lamps, this should be done in just ten minutes. On the way to the next mission, the ambulance could be disinfected quickly and almost fully automatically. Of course, the process cannot completely replace manual cleaning and disinfection. But it makes almost sterile all areas of the cabin that are hit by the spotlights directly or indirectly via reflectors - including the couch on which the patient is transported.

If the Fraunhofer researchers have their way, the LED lights could in future also be used to disinfect cell phones and tablets in clinics. After all, they are increasingly part of everyday work there. From the outside, the device that the experts developed looks like a cross between a microwave and a laser printer. Inside the small box, LEDs with a wavelength of 269 nanometers shine on cell phones and tablets. An NFC reader also registers which smartphone was irradiated with which dose in order to guarantee complete disinfection. So that the prototype can be turned into a marketable product, the institute is now looking for partners from industry.