04/12/2021 | Industrial Water Treatment | 8 MINUTE READ

Are UV LED Lamps the Future for Water Disinfection?

Whether you want to disinfect drinking water or need to outfit a municipal system with equipment that can effectively disinfect the water, there is a range of different technologies that can be used for water disinfection purposes. Among the more modern technologies is ultraviolet disinfection, which can take place with the use of UV LED lamps. Ultraviolet water disinfection systems are combined with light-emitting diodes to strengthen the disinfection properties of the UV system.

There are two different solutions that can be paired with an ultraviolet disinfection system, which include UVC LED reactors and UV lamp reactors. Standard UV lamp reactors are ideal for continuous operation. On the other hand, the potency of UVC LED reactors means that the light input from the device is instantaneous and produces high-intensity results. UVC germicidal irradiation uses very short wavelengths of ultraviolet light to kill pathogens and microorganisms that are found in the water. The effectiveness of this specific technology depends on how long the microorganism is directly exposed to ultraviolet light.

The LED light bulbs that are placed in an ultraviolet disinfection system are able to produce light that’s as much as 90 percent more efficient than standard incandescent light bulbs. The efficiency of these light bulbs is also what makes them more effective when used for water disinfection purposes. The intense light that’s emitted from an LED bulb will land in the 250-280nm range. Keep in mind that this is a very recent invention, which is why the effects of UV LED lamps still need to be studied to determine how potent they can be for water disinfection in industrial settings.

UV LED lamps are considered to be among the most effective methods for disinfecting water and for eliminating the bacteria that can be present in water. The ultraviolet rays are able to penetrate the harmful pathogens and microorganisms that are found in the water, which means that the water can be disinfected in a simple and environmentally friendly manner. At the moment, UV LED systems are best used with point-of-use applications, which means that the system should be placed nearby 1-2 taps as opposed to an entire building. This article goes in-depth about UV LED lamps and how they are the future of water disinfection.

UV LED and Its Ecological Impact

uv led lampsTo understand the ecological impact of UV LED systems, you should know that billions of water bottles and millions of POU water disinfection systems are sold on a monthly basis. These are highly popular methods of obtaining drinking water because of how inexpensive they are compared to other options. Along with ultraviolet disinfection, there are a large number of different types of water filtration systems that can be installed in a home or commercial building. The different types of water filtration systems include:

  • Distillation
  • Ultra-filtration
  • Sediment filtration
  • Ionization
  • Ion-exchange
  • GAC filtration
  • ACB filtration
  • Reverse osmosis filtration

The technologies that are most commonly used for water disinfection purposes are chemical water treatments. Despite the many notable benefits that come with using chemical treatments to purify water, there are also some substantial drawbacks that you should be aware of. For instance, certain chemicals aren’t great for the environment, which is why it’s recommended that you use environmentally friendly solutions whenever possible.

There are also certain waterborne pathogens like Giardia and Legionella that have a strong resistance to chemicals and can’t be eradicated with chemical treatments. In fact, microbial pathogen contamination is a common issue with water filtration systems. While reverse osmosis systems are able to get rid of most contaminants, they have high maintenance costs and typically require regular replacements. In comparison, UV LED lamps are considered the strongest solutions for waterborne pathogens and other contaminants that are usually difficult to eliminate. In many cases, UV LED technology is the most Eco-friendly and convenient solution for water filtration.

UV Lamps

Standard ultraviolet lamps are known to be highly effective at disinfecting water from a variety of different sources. However, UV lamps are outfitted with mercury, which is a very harmful chemical that can pollute the water and cause dangerous side effects to anyone who drinks the water. Despite this significant drawback, UV lamps have had a widespread adoption for water disinfection because of how effective ultraviolet light is at eradicating pathogens. Keep in mind that mercury contamination is a serious concern for the health of the oceans as well as the food chain. It’s also important to note that UV lamps must be cleaned on a regular basis to ensure that they function properly.

UV LED lamps get rid of most of the issues that affect standard UV lamps. For instance, UV LED lamps don’t use mercury, which means that mercury pollution isn’t a problem that you need to take into account when filtering water. The lack of mercury means that UV LED lamps are the most Eco-friendly solution on the market today. While purchasing bottled water is a great way to obtain contaminant-free water, bottled water introduces extremely high amounts of plastic waste to the environment, which does more damage to the environment than most pollutants. If you want to support the environment and obtain a highly efficient disinfection system, UV LED lamps are the way to go.

Applying UV LED to Water Disinfection Devices

uv led and its ecological impactWhile UV LED lamps can act as replacements for UV lamps that contain mercury, they can also be used in certain situations where UV lamps aren’t suitable. Likely the best type of application for UV LED systems is in situations where UV lamps can’t be used but would otherwise be beneficial at disinfecting water. For instance, it’s possible for UV LED lamps to be significantly smaller than their standard UV counterparts, which means that they can be readily positioned in small appliances.

These devices can also be switched off at times when the water isn’t flowing, which allows you to extend the life of the device. Because UV LED lamps can be turned on and off with ease, they generate much less heat when compared to standard UV lamps, which means that they are ideal when disinfecting cold water. Unlike some filtration devices, these lamps don’t have a warm-up period when you turn them on, which means that they can better conserve electricity when they are switched off. These lamps are also powered solely with electricity. As such, they can be turned on by a hand crank, solar cell, or battery.

The versatility of UV LED lamps makes them very useful for the developing world. These devices have proven valuable for installers of water systems and manufacturers of water appliances. Even though the majority of UV LED lamps are considered to be POU systems that are best paired with 1-2 taps, they are starting to be created with POE installation in mind, which means that the device would be placed at the point of entry for the water that flows into the building. POE filtration devices can effectively filter water for an entire household or building.

When looking specifically at industrial applications, it’s believed that industrial UV LED lamps will start to be developed in a few years. This is considered to be a major goal for most filtration manufacturers. Being able to replace mercury-based UV lamps with UV LED lamps that don’t contain mercury will be highly beneficial at reducing the amount of pollution that’s created in industrial settings.

Eventually, it’s believed that UV LED lamps can help with scale mitigation. Keep in mind that scale formations can worsen the efficiency of a boiler or wastewater treatment unit. If these scale formations aren’t dealt with, they could cause full system malfunction. At the moment, the main solution for scale development involves placing chemical treatments in the water. Developing UV LED lamps for industrial settings should allow these lamps to be used instead of harmful chemical treatments.

As mentioned previously, the intense light that UV LED lamps are able to emit ensures that harmful microorganisms and pathogens are directly eliminated after a short period of time. The radiation from ultraviolet light alters some of the DNA that’s found in the cells of the microorganism in question, which impedes reproduction. Because of how this system works, the organisms in the water are inactivated as opposed to being removed.


UV LED lamps are the future of water disinfection and are able to provide nearly all of the benefits of other filtration systems without any of the drawbacks. Standard UV lamps are already being adopted at a high rate because of their efficacy in getting rid of pathogens. Once UV LED lamps can be produced for more POE and industrial applications, they can replace standard UV lamps and eliminate the mercury pollution that has been caused by these UV lamps.

At the moment, the primary manufacturers and distributors of UV LED lamps include Pelican Water and Aquasana. These devices can be sourced directly for home use or integration into different appliances. If you want to use one of these systems in your home, they are considered to be a cost-effective solution for water disinfection. Their maintenance requirements are also much less stringent when compared to standard UV lamps, which makes them beneficial for any household.

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Posted by Dominic O'Donnell on April 12, 2021

Sensorex is a global leader in the design and manufacture of quality sensors for water quality and process applications. The company offers more than 2000 sensor packages for pH, ORP, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, free chlorine, chlorine dioxide, UV transmittance and other specialty measurements, as well as a full line of sensor accessories and transmitters. Its expert technical support engineers solve analytical sensor challenges with custom designs and off the shelf products.

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