• COVID-19
  • Lighting Technologies
  • Healthcare
  • LED Lighting

New COVID-19-Eliminating Disinfectant Lighting Applications Show Promise

Daniel Talero
Dec 22, 2020

Guidehouse Insights

New research has shown that certain kinds of ultraviolet C (UVC) LED lighting are effective against the virus that causes COVID-19, improving safety for people as they return to workspaces. Specifically, UVC light at 222 nanometers (nm), a wavelength known to be safe for use around humans, has been shown to effectively kill SARS-CoV-2 according to a new study from Hiroshima University.

This is the first research to prove both human safety and efficacy in reducing potential COVID-19 infections. UVC at 222 nm is a safer alternative to more traditional 254 nm UVC germicidal lamps commonly used in healthcare facilities only when rooms are vacant. The Hiroshima University findings align with other research at Columbia University, which has found human-safe UVC light at 222 nanometers to be 99% effective at eliminating other common coronaviruses.

The Japanese company Ushio, which partnered with both universities to develop the technology, intends to sell its 222 nm UVC lamps to medical facilities first. At $2,800 per unit, the price is higher than 254 nm competitors, but Ushio sees possible adoption on buses, trains, elevators, and offices in addition to medical facilities.

UVC Lighting Presents a New Market Opportunity

Currently, effective and reliable disinfectant UVC lighting is for a high end market. Cheaper alternatives exist but are often not effective enough to justify their price. Likewise, many products have entered the market making false claims about effectiveness against COVID-19. While these issues may confuse buyers and restrict adoption, COVID-19-effective lighting could become a must-have in healthcare settings and other high occupancy facilities.

One example comes from German supermarket chain EDEKA, which is piloting 254 nm UVC Signify lamps in high ceiling fixtures and pointing them parallel to the floor to minimize human exposure to the UV light. Other store locations are piloting different technologies, all with installation modifications to minimize human exposure to the UV light. However, fully human-safe disinfectant capabilities could be integrated more seamlessly into existing solid-state lighting and LED products, potentially reducing prices and spurring adoption. As theater, stadium, and other operators show interest in similar technology, vendors such as OSRAM are also ramping up production of 254 nm UVC lamp products in response. While these products are cheaper than Ushio’s solution, they require more complex installations to mitigate their health risks.

The lighting market could use good news—69% of lighting companies surveyed by the Lighting Industry Association have reported difficulties in obtaining raw materials or components due to late deliveries and other factors. Large manufacturers such as Signify have had to increase prices due to added supply chain costs during the pandemic. To soften a potential blow to sales, vendors in a similar position to Signify need to improve products that integrate COVID-19-effective capabilities with minimal installation costs. This move can support higher prices with added value.

Emerging COVID-19-effective lighting shows great promise for manufacturers and their customers. In the global fight against the pandemic, new UVC technology developed in Hiroshima and New York bodes well for the future.