Application of GaN-based ultraviolet-C light emitting diodes - UV LEDs - for water disinfection

M.A. Würtelea, T. Kolbeb, M. Lipszc, A. Külbergc, M. Weyersc, M. Kneisslb,c, M. Jekela

Published in:

Water Research, vol. 45, no. 3, pp. 1481-1489 (2011).

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GaN-based ultraviolet-C (UV-C) light emitting diodes (LEDs) are of great interest for water disinfection. They offer significant advantages compared to conventional mercury lamps due to their compact form factor, low power requirements, high efficiency, non-toxicity, and overall robustness. However, despite the significant progress in the performance of semiconductor based UV LEDs that has been achieved in recent years, these devices still suffer from low emission power and relatively short lifetimes. Even the best UV LEDs exhibit external quantum efficiencies of only 1-2%.
The objective of this study was to investigate the suitability of GaN-based UV LEDs for water disinfection. The investigation included the evaluation of the performance characteristics of UV LEDs at different operating conditions as well as the design of a UV LED module in view of the requirements for water treatment applications. Bioanalytical testing was conducted using Bacillus subtilis spores as test organism and UV LED modules with emission wavelengths of 269 nm and 282 nm.
The results demonstrate the functionality of the developed UV LED disinfection modules. GaN-based UV LEDs effectively inactivated B. subtilis spores during static and flow-through tests applying varying water qualities. The 269 nm LEDs reached a higher level of inactivation than the 282 nm LEDs for the same applied fluence. The lower inactivation achieved by the 282 nm LEDs was compensated by their higher photon flux. First flow-through tests indicate a linear correlation between inactivation and fluence, demonstrating a well designed flow-through reactor. With improved light output and reduced costs, GaN-based UV LEDs can provide a promising alternative for decentralised and mobile water disinfection systems.

a TU Berlin, Fachgebiet Wasserreinhaltung, Sekr. KF4, Strasse des 17, Juni 135, 10623 Berlin, Germany
b TU Berlin, Institut für Festkörperphysik, Hardenbergstr. 36, 10623 Berlin, Germany
c Ferdinand-Braun-Institut, Leibniz-Institut für Höchstfrequenztechnik, Gustav-Kirchhoff-Straße 4, D-12489 Berlin, Germany


Disinfection; UV light; Light emitting diodes (LED); Water treatment