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Ultraviolet light could be latest weapon in disinfection

Monday 14th May 2012
Ultraviolet light could be latest weapon in disinfection
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    As many hospitals across the UK are hit by norovirus outbreaks, a team in North Carolina believe they have found the latest weapon in tackling health centre cleanliness.

    Research from North Carolina State University has found that ultraviolet (UV) lights from energy-efficient LED technology could be one of the key devices that could help to sterilise drinking water as well as surgical equipment. The researchers believe that UV light can be integral to destroying bacteria and viruses, and thus helping to stop the spread of deadly noroviruses that can prove difficult to control if they are spread in hospitals.

    In Scotland alone, NHS statistics, obtained by the Liberal Democrats found that since 2009, 1,000 wards had to be closed across the country due to an outbreak of a norovirus and staff had been looking for a number of sterile services to help combat this problem.

    LED devices use a substance known as aluminium nitride (AIN) to kill germs as it can handle a lot more light and use a range of colours in the UV range. It means that when applied as a semiconductor, it can harness the end of the spectrum to potentially tackle the bacteria that is not picked by other conventional methods. However, this has not always been successful as the substrates that are involved in the devices absorb the light which is crucial to sterilising water and eradicating bacteria.

    The North Carolina researchers, working together with fellow colleagues from Japan, found a solution by identifying that carbon atoms in the crystalline structure of AIN were causing the absorption, and that by taking this substance out of the substrate it allowed the UV light to be used on the bacteria instead.

    Dr. Doug Irving, assistant professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and co-author of the paper, said: "This is a problem that's been around for more than 30 years, and we were able to solve it by integrating advanced computation, materials synthesis and characterization. I think we’ll see more work in this vein as the Materials Genome Initiative moves forward, and that this approach will accelerate the development of new materials and related technologies."

    written by Alex Franklin StortfordADNFCR-1780-ID-801362776-ADNFCR

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