Using LED Technology Can Reduce the Cost of UV Disinfection

The energy costs that treatment plants have to endure every year is a major source of their yearly budget, so if there is any way to reduce the amount of energy used every month by adding new, low-cost and efficient technology, it would be a no-brainer for municipalities. Recently, there has been some exciting research conducted at North Carolina State University (NC State) using energy-efficient LED devices with ultraviolet (UV) light to kill bacteria and viruses in drinking water treatment processes. This technology is already used in the sterilization process of surgical tools.

According to the researchers at NC State, “LEDs utilize aluminum nitride (AlN) as a semiconductor because the material can handle a massive amount of power and create light in a wide spectrum of colors, particularly in the UV range. The problem in the past is that AlN LEDs creating UV light have been severely limited because the substrates that served as the foundation for these semiconductors absorbed wavelengths of UV light that are crucial to applications in sterilization and water treatment technologies.”  A more simplistic way of saying this is that the intensity of the light diminished due to the powering process and was not fully eliminating the dangerous pathogens.

So, the team at NC State worked with a small research-and-development company to solve this problem. By using a computer simulation model, they determined that trace carbon atoms in the crystalline structure of the AlN substrate were responsible for absorbing most of the valuable UV light in the process.  After many adjustments were made to the structure of the UV light, they were able to eliminate the carbon in the substrate and thus, improved the total amount of UV light that can pass through the water at the desired wavelengths to destroy the pathogens. 

The actual cost reduction for this new technology is still not known since it is in its early stages. However, the expectations for this disinfection technology is expected to be a reduction of nearly 50 percent of usage at the UV lamp location. For more information about this product, visit the researcher’s website at

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