Low-pressure mercury lamps, once widely utilized for surface, air, and water disinfection over four decades ago, have slowly been losing ground to UVC LEDs due to new regulations and lack of competing technology. According to one report, mercury lamps are slowly being phased out due to the Minamata Convention on Mercury which seeks to protect human health and the environment from its potentially hazardous effects on both parties; in part this shift can be explained by future regulations as well as lack of competition in their market place. UVC LEDs emit UV light at 254 nanometer wavelength that makes it highly effective against bacteria viruses, and other microorganisms.
This report, “UVC LED Beyond COVID-19: Performance Analysis and Comparison,” offers a clear and informative picture of past and future performance and cost trends using an analysis of 160 LEDs currently on the market. Wall plug efficiency (WPE) is often touted as being key in replacing LP-Hg lamps with UVC LED WPEs being in the 1-4% range – far too low compared with their efficiency of up to 30% for most UVC LEDs currently available on the market.
Bolb Inc. and ams OSRAM stand out with efficiency levels over 5.5% at 265nm, the optimum wavelength for this application. Bolb Inc. stands out with four products featuring between 5.54-6.4% efficiency due to their proprietary transparent chip UVC LED structure.
Although UVC LEDs remain more costly than their LP-Hg counterparts, their cost has reached an acceptable threshold to spur increased interest in commercializing this technology. UVC LEDs already outlive LP-Hg lamps (12,000 hours compared to 8,000 hours), with longer operating lifetimes (11 000 hours against 8 000 hours) offsetting some of their purchase cost with extended operating times and lower maintenance expenses.
Based on an exhaustive examination of the current market, this report predicts that UVC LEDs could achieve WPE equivalent to that of LP-Hg lamps and lifetime equaling white light LEDs (50,000 hours) by 2028. Recent achievements of companies like Bolb Inc., Crystal IS and Samsung show this is already happening.
COVID-19’s pandemic has drawn optical players out from hiding and their activity is anticipated to remain high, with more announcements regarding UVC LEDs as disinfection tools becoming a growing interest among hospital personnel. Since this technology will likely become the standard soon enough, low-pressure mercury lamps will likely gradually phase out over time.