Friday, July 17, 2020

Followup On Far-UVC Light Kills Airborne Coronavirus

This is a follow-up on the topic that I posted last time regarding evidence that far-UVC light can effectively reduce airborne virus transmission.

I read more about it, and found this extensive Physics World article that highlights the current development of the application of far-UVC light in virus sterilization. So obviously, this is a very active area of research right now. There are compelling evidence that far-UVC may be safe to human beings under limited exposure while still be effective in eliminating airborne viruses such as COVID-19.

But another issue that I've been trying to dig through is that, while far-UVC may be safer in terms of very short penetration depth into the skin and cornea, I haven't read much on possible ozone generation. One of the nasty effects of UVC light is that it can create ozone gas.

I sent to the International Ultraviolet Association webpage (didn't know one existed till recently), and went through their FAQs. One of them addresses the specific issue of ozone creation:
Does far UV (200 – 225 nm) generate ozone?

From a photochemical perspective, yes.

The Chapman cycle (Chapman, 1930) describes the counteractive processes of ozone formation and degradation from the interaction of light with molecular oxygen (O2) and ozone(O3). The rate of generation of ozone by far UV-C (known as the Herzberg continuum in atmospheric science) outweighs the rate of its degradation; the tipping point at which this generation/degradation balance flips is ~242 – 243 nm. (Andrew et al., 2003; Santos, Burini, and Wang, 2012), Far UVC (200-225 nm) only generates ozone in the upper atmosphere, where path lengths are very long. In a normal laboratory setting, ozone would not be generated because oxygen (O2) is a very weak absorber in the far UVC region.

As with any process, the risk of such hazards should be assessed on an application-by-application basis. A low power lamp operated in a well-ventilated area may not generate a measurable ozone concentration; a high-power system in an enclosed space may constitute a substantial risk.

Now, I don't quite understand why the "path lengths" have anything to do with ozone generation in the upper atmosphere, but it seems to imply that in a lab setting, far-UVC is not an effective ozone producer because it is a weakly absorbed by oxygen molecules. I can't get access to those articles while I'm at home, and I'm not even sure if my institution subscribes to any of those sources. So if anyone has more info on this, let's hear it.

This will be a tremendous way to reduce airborne transmission if it can be show to be effective and safe. But as with many things, it needs to be investigated carefully.



John Duffield said...

Zapper, see

ZapperZ said...

OK, I saw the paper, but what does that have anything to do with the topic of the post other than advertising the sci-hub website? I'm not talking about Ozone generation being used to kill airborne stuff.


John Duffield said...

Sorry, I thought you were saying you couldn't get access to the papers because you were at home. I can access the physicsworld article without signing in. So I didn't think you meant that.