Even though UV disinfection is a relatively recent technology, it has quickly become a favorite for disinfection of microbial contaminants. While UV disinfection was initially used to treat and disinfect water in the early 20th century, this disinfection technique was quickly abandoned as a result of low-quality equipment and high operational costs. Today, UV disinfection can be used to purify drinking water in residential homes and to treat industrial wastewater.
UV disinfection has become increasingly popular over the past decade because of the low maintenance costs and high efficacy of the treatment. UV disinfection offers numerous benefits that can’t be found in other disinfection methods. For instance, UV disinfection can destroy around 99.99% of bacteria and viruses in your water. It’s also among the most environmentally friendly treatments around, which means that you can use it whenever you want without worrying about byproducts or other issues that result from using chemical disinfectants.
One notable aspect of UV disinfection technology that you should be aware of involves the germicidal spectrum or frequency. The ultraviolet lights that are used in this treatment are known as the germicidal spectrum, which is the exact frequency that the disinfection process uses to kill microorganisms in the water. This frequency is 254 nanometers. This article offers a comprehensive look at the UV disinfection technology and why you should use it to disinfect contaminated water.
How a UV Disinfection System Works
As touched upon previously, the UV disinfection system works by using ultraviolet lamps that are able to emit UV light at a specific wavelength. When UV light waves are displayed at a certain length, it’s possible for an organism’s DNA to be disrupted. Microorganisms can be killed when the frequency is placed at 254 nanometers. While the disinfection process is ongoing, water will be taken through the UV treatment system, which ensures that any living organisms that are found in the water will be exposed to ultraviolet light.
Once microorganisms are exposed to the right UV light wavelength, the DNA/RNA of these microorganisms will be rearranged, which eliminates the ability that these microorganisms have to reproduce and function altogether. In a short period of time, nearly all microorganisms in the water should be eradicated. Since the microorganisms can’t reproduce, they’ll be unable to infect other organisms.
Despite how simplistic the UV disinfection process is, it’s considerably more effective than most treatments when it comes to getting rid of microorganisms. When using this treatment, you should be able to avoid the need to place chemicals in the water.
Industrial Applications of UV Disinfection System
There are numerous industrial applications that a UV disinfection system can be used with. it’s important to understand that UV disinfection systems can’t be made with a simple pipe and UV lamp. Instead, the UV reactor will need to be designed in a manner that ensures every microbe will be exposed to the UV light.
The hydraulic characteristics of water must be accommodated when designing an industrial UV disinfection system. The flow of the water should be placed at a rate that facilitates high turbulence and residence time. If your industrial UV disinfection system is well designed, the results should be consistent no matter the application the system is being used for. The main industrial applications that UV disinfection systems can accommodate include:
- Cosmetics – When cosmetics are made with water that’s free of contaminants and harmful microorganisms, the shelf life of cosmetics should be longer and the quality higher. The UV disinfection technique is considered by most cosmetic manufacturers to be the ideal disinfection technique.
- Food and beverage – A UV disinfection system is able to help food and beverage manufacturers meet the contaminant reduction levels that have been set by the FDA.
- Swimming pools – Chlorine has long been the primary disinfectant for swimming pools. Despite the efficacy of chlorine, it’s possible for harmful chemicals to form when chlorine reacts with organic matter in the water. UV disinfection is altogether a safer and considerably more cost-effective method for disinfecting swimming pools.
- Centralized drinking water – If you want to have purified drinking water in your office building or home, a UV disinfection system is a great way to make sure that the water is clean enough to drink.
- Bio-pharmaceutical – Any water that’s used for the creation of healthcare and pharmaceutical products needs to be free of ozone, chlorine, and various pathogens. The majority of pharmaceutical companies currently use UV disinfection to purify the water they use.
- Wastewater disinfection – Because of issues with water scarcity, disinfecting wastewater has become increasingly important to ensure that the water can be reused. UV disinfection is a leading technology for disinfecting wastewater.
The Two Classes of Disinfection Systems
There are two primary classes of UV disinfection systems that you should be aware of, which include class A and class B systems. These systems have been classified by NSF via Standard 55.
Class A disinfection systems are point-of-use and point-of-entry systems that are required to have a saturation and intensity rating that measures at 40,000 uwsec/cm2 or more. All of these systems need to be designed in a manner that allows them to eradicate bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms in water.
It’s important to understand, however, that these systems shouldn’t be used to treat raw sewage or other types of water that are obviously contaminated. A class A system can’t be converted into a system that treats industrial wastewater. Any water that’s treated with a class A system must have a visually clear appearance.
Class B disinfection systems must have a saturation and intensity rating of 16,000 uw-sec/cm2 or more. These systems are only able to treat water that’s already been deemed as safe. In most cases, class B systems are used for supplemental water treatment to lessen normally occurring microorganisms or non-pathogenic organisms. If high levels of microorganisms are present in the water that’s set to be treated, you must use a class A UV disinfection system.
In general, the type of system that you use depends on the source of water, your situation, and the quality of your drinking water. In the event that suspended solids are higher than 10ppm, it’s highly recommended that you use some type of pre-filtration technique before you send the water through a UV disinfection system.
Advantages and Disadvantages of UV Disinfection
Before using a UV disinfection system, you should know about the many advantages and disadvantages that come with this type of disinfection. Since there are numerous disinfection systems available to you, consider comparing the features and benefits of this system against the other treatment solutions you can choose from. The top benefits of having a UV disinfection system installed in your home, office, or industrial facility include:
- Highly effective – Can eliminate 99.99% of bacteria and viruses
- Efficient process – Water can get through the system without the need for a holding tank
- Reliable – Works 24/7 without issue
- Environmentally friendly – Doesn’t create disinfection byproducts
- Cost-effective maintenance – Aside from annual service, the only maintenance requirements include the replacement of the sleeve and UV lamp
- Minimal energy usage – Doesn’t use much electricity
- Safe and clean – You won’t need to dispose of dirty parts
- Chemical free – Harmful chemicals don’t need to be added to the system for the water to be disinfected
The main disadvantages associated with UV disinfection extend to:
- Can only get rid of microorganisms – While UV disinfection systems can get rid of microorganisms, they are ineffective against man-made chemicals, heavy metals, and salts. As such, it’s important to use additional treatment methods alongside UV disinfection.
- Only works on relatively clear water – The UV rays must reach the microorganisms in the water, which means that the water can’t be murky or highly contaminated. You can mitigate this issue by using some form of pre-treatment.
- Doesn’t affect odor or taste – UV disinfection systems are unable to alter the taste or smell or water. If your water tastes bad or has a pungent odor to it, combine your UV disinfection system with a reverse osmosis system.
- Requires electricity to operate – These systems may not be viable in certain rural settings where electricity isn’t readily available.
While there are some drawbacks that come with using UV disinfection for water treatment purposes, the benefits far outweigh the negatives, which is why UV disinfection is considered by many to be the ideal method for eliminating microorganisms from water. If you pair your UV disinfection system with additional treatment technologies, you should have a potent water treatment process that’s able to effectively get rid of most contaminants.