“LED and Plasma are Emerging Technologies for Disinfection”

US Naval Research Laboratory researchers evaluated commercial ultraviolet sources for viral disinfection to combat Covid-19 on land and at sea, and established a dedicated UV characterization lab in five days to ensure safe introduction and effective operation of UV sources across the fleet.

A high-output UV source candidate is tested on the new 3-axis automated UV scanning system (Source: USN, J. Steffen)

In a short period of time, Brett Huhman of NRL’s plasma physics division, reconfigured a laboratory space, conferred with subject matter experts across the NRL materials science and component technology directorate, and borrowed needed equipment to establish a UV characterization laboratory.

“Testing at NRL includes UV unit longevity and reliability, identifying easy-to-use dosimeters, reflections from shipboard surfaces, and secondary ozone generation from these UV systems,” Huhman said. “Scientists at other Navy labs are using NRL data to help them test efficacy against viral loads on Navy and Marine relevant surfaces, such as bare metal tools and painted metal surfaces, and cardboard boxes.”

A pulsed xenon gas lamp source emits ultraviolet (UV) light source during testing at the NRL (Source: USN, J. Steffens)

There are numerous companies offering products that produce UV light and are designed for a variety of small and large-scale applications. The Naval Sea Systems Command (Navsea) requested NRL scientists to study and characterize the energy density, UV spectrum, and reliability of commercially available units.

“As the Navy wishes to quickly evaluate the efficacy of these commercial sources before procurement, a small investment was deemed necessary, in order to help the Navy ‘verify before we buy’,” said Joseph Schumer, branch head for NRL’s pulsed power physics group and program manager. “We have learned a lot about the reliability of commercial sources.”

Testing began in mid-April after NRL received fifteen 18-watt, hand-held wands from Navsea. Since then, the team has tested nine different mercury and xenon-based UV sources with plans to evaluate both LED and plasma-based excimer sources.

Brett Huhman, NRL senior research engineer, communicates with other team members over video chat during testing pulsed xenon gas lamp source in support of Covid-19 (Source: USN, J. Steffen)

“LED and plasma-based sources are emerging technologies, and represent the use of wavelengths not traditionally used for germicidal disinfection,” said Huhman. “Mercury sources have historically dominated the market.” Navy researchers continue to evaluate commercial units already being used in hospitals and for other applications for efficacy on Navy-relevant surfaces. (Source: NRL)

Link: Pulsed Power Physics Branch, Plasma Physics Division, U.S. Naval Research Lab, Washington, DC, USA

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