UV LEDs can help in the COVID-19 fight - But vital considerations are needed

Online Editor

Xuesong Hu explores the best new opportunities for designing with LEDs

Since Anders joined forces with Selectronic, the firm has expanded its LED portfolio to include infrared (IR) LEDs and ultraviolet (UV) LEDs, among others. Both technologies are making headlines right now as potential allies in our fight against Covid-19.

Proximity sensing and gesture sensing using IR LEDs can help with social distancing and enable contactless interactions with various types of equipment.

On the other hand, UV-C radiation – the shortest group of wavelengths in the ultraviolet spectrum – has valuable virucidal properties. UV-C irradiation is used in various applications for sterilisation and disinfection and has been shown to be effective against known coronaviruses such as SARS. But let’s think carefully before going full-speed ahead.

Are UV LEDs safe?

The energy in UV-C is harmful to organic tissue in general, so we must give due consideration to safety. If people are likely to be in the vicinity when UV-C radiation is active, exposed skin may be affected. If UV-C reaches more delicate areas, by entering the eye, for example, there is potential for serious damage. In addition to protecting users and any others who may be nearby, equipment vendors need to be able to protect themselves by demonstrating that risks have been duly considered. The design, user instructions, and any stipulated safety precautions must be adequate to ensure acceptable safety.

Can UV LED protection be designed in?

It may not be feasible to provide complete protection against unintended exposure to UV light by incorporating design features alone. Reflections, for example, can be practically impossible to predict in an uncontrolled environment such as at an ATM terminal or when using a POS machine or door-entry system. A shiny surface such as a bezel or the face of a user’s wristwatch or smartphone could reflect radiation in almost any direction. Additional shielding, or a cover, may be needed, for example, or safety protocols to exclude any humans from the area before UV-C emitters can be turned on.

How can UV LEDs be designed safely?

When creating new products for today’s world, designers can take advantage of Anders’ expertise in these LED technologies in a wide variety of user-facing equipment deployed in all types of environments, from the home, to the office, factory, or street level. The firm can help ensure that new products are not only safe for users but will also protect the value of their brand.

Additional LED innovations

LEDs are usually chosen for their visual properties and power savings, such as in optimised energy-efficient lighting, backlights and crisp, brightly lit LED displays that can be seen clearly even in bright sunlight.

The possibilities for LED displays are practically endless with display dimensions, colours, icons, and display pin assignment open to customisation. Our newly strengthened team can help you achieve the effect you want, for example, customised colour temperature ranges and brightness ranges for white LEDs.

Anders can mitigate the challenges around manufacturing, too, by designing and building custom LED boards and fully assembled interconnects that are ready to plug in and turn on.

Xuesong Hu is product manager at Anders