What Are Some Practical Applications of Using UV Light to Control Microbial Growth?

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Disinfection is the process of killing harmful microbes on a surface. There are several ways to kill microbes such as with anti-bacterial solutions -- but using ultraviolet light is also an option. UV rays are effective for preventing microbial growth and they are used in several instances as a disinfectant.

Description

  • Ultraviolet light is made of electric and magnetic waves that produce electromagnetic radiation when joined together. Electromagnetic radiation disburses in units called photons which are small bundles of energy. When the small packs of energy come in contact with a surface, they emit an electric charge which has a direct impact on any microbes that are present.

Effects

  • The components of UV light allow it to have a negative effect on microbes. Small units of UV light travel at a higher frequency than visible light, allowing them to carry more energy. When this higher presence of energy enters a microbe such as fungi or bacteria, it causes DNA mutations within the microbe's cells. When mutations occur at an increased rate, the microbe cannot reproduce and eventually dies. In this way, UV light directly effects the microbial population by killing microbes and preventing new ones from forming.

Health Industry Uses

  • The health care industry utilizes UV light to sterilize work space surfaces and tools used for surgery and in laboratories. UV light is transmitted through an ultraviolet lamp which is usually attached to a cabinet or hood. A metal rack underneath the light holds the tools and when the light is switched on, the rays attack any microbes that are present on the surface of the tools. UV lamps are only effective for killing surface bacteria and fungi, but cannot penetrate microbes hiding beneath the crevices or inside the cracks of tools or objects. For this reason, UV lamps are used in conjunction with other sterilization techniques.

Water Uses

  • UV light is beneficial for killing bacterial growth in pool water. Typically solutions such as chlorine and bromine work effectively to disinfect pools, but these chemicals can have toxic effects on the environment. UV light is a safer alternative because it kills microbes without any negative after effects. Eco-friendly pool cleaning systems emit UV light into pool water, allowing it to pass through microorganisms, preventing them from reproducing and eventually destroying them. UV rays do not kill 100 percent of the microbes in pool water, but they do decrease the amount of other harmful chemicals needed to decontaminate the water.

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