Along our world’s color spectrum exists a range of wavelengths invisible to the human eye—this is called UV light, and the sun naturally produces it. While certain health risks are associated with exposure to this portion of the color spectrum, ultraviolet light sources provide society with many helpful functions.
UV-C Shortwaves: Sanitation
Ultraviolet light is mainly used for sanitation and disinfection, as it possesses natural pathogen-inhibiting characteristics. These incredible capabilities were discovered in 1877 by British physiologist Thomas P. Blunt and successfully realized by German-born Ernst Hertel when he harnessed the disinfecting powers of UV-C wavelengths. These days, UV-C light sources are used in many applications.
Ultraviolet sanitation is common in water treatment, food and beverage manufacturing, medication production, and surgery. UV is even practical (and affordable) for residential applications, from UV lamps that clean the air inside your home’s HVAC system to smartphone-sanitizing boxes that plug into the wall. Ultimately, the cleansing benefits of ultraviolet light treatment are exceedingly vital in today’s world, especially following a pandemic and further globalization.
UV-A Longwaves: Laser Marking
UV lamps produce UV-C wavelengths ideal for sanitizing a plethora of objects and resources. Other wavelengths on the invisible light spectrum provide different functions, including long-wave UV-A light (315-400 nm). This portion of ultraviolet light is harmful to human skin and potentially DNA. Yet, UV-A wavelengths possess incredible surface manipulation capabilities when harnessed through a laser machine.
UV lasers effectively alter the chemical properties of an object’s surface and create indelible markings without damaging sensitive material. They’re also highly suitable for curing industrial inks, coatings, and adhesives. UV laser marking machines are common across many industries, including pharmaceuticals and microchip manufacturing. Furthermore, this form of laser marking is exceptionally sanitary and perfect for highly-regulated applications.
UV-B Midwaves: Indoor Plant Growth
UV-B light is one of the most radioactive portions of the ultraviolet spectrum. Studies show that UV-B midwaves can alter organic DNA and damage essential proteins, membranes, and lipids in plants, especially with overexposure.
Certain indoor vegetation benefits from minor UV-B exposure and produces a higher yield. UV-B wavelengths are mainly used in cannabis production and, in certain applications, are known to boost the potency and quality of the exposed crops. However, research on this subject is limited, and there is no consensus on the efficacy of UV-B exposure within the industry.
There are just a few helpful functions of ultraviolet light sources, but they effectively highlight the impressive capabilities of invisible lights. Time will tell if UV technology will continue to benefit our society as a whole!