Posted by Doug Root on 3rd Jun 2020

The Operation and Function of UV Light Bulbs

There are many different types of light bulbs out there, and many of them are specialty bulbs. Interestingly enough, while it might have been obvious that the purpose of a light bulb was to provide ambient lighting to an environment, that is far from the only purpose that a light bulb can serve. Among the many types of light bulbs you are likely to come across or hear about are UV light bulbs, which differ from many other light bulbs, the primary purpose of which is to provide ambient lighting. UV light bulbs are built for more specialized purposes. There are three classes of UV bulbs - those that emit UVA, UVB, and UVC radiation. We will explore each of these, but for the most part, you are most likely to come across UVC bulbs for sanitation purposes.

UV, or Ultraviolet light, is a type of electromagnetic radiation. To keep things very simple, visible light is a type of electromagnetic radiation, but UV radiation has much smaller wavelengths than light on the visible spectrum. As the name might imply, human eyes can see visible light, but UV radiation is invisible to us. You may be familiar with UV light because some of it gets to the Earth’s surface from the sun - you may also have heard of it because there are certain precautions that need to be taken against it - this is how come UV bulbs work, specifically UVC bulbs.

Many UV light bulbs belong to a class of lights known as germicidal lights, the purpose of which is to rid surfaces of biological contaminants. In fact, many UV bulbs are highly efficient at cleansing surfaces not only of bacterial life but of viruses as well. Here’s how they work.

Most UV bulbs that are intended for germicidal use operate by emitting UVC wavelength radiation. UVC radiation is the shortest of the three forms of ultraviolet light, and UVA is the longest, with UVB between them. The shorter the wavelength, the more harmful the radiation is to live - that is why people are cautioned against exposing themselves to too much sunlight when the UV index is too high. This is the key to the efficacy of UVC germicidal bulbs.

UVC light damages a cell’s genetic material, penetrating into the cell’s nucleus and destabilizing or destroying its DNA. With exposure to a UVC lamp, bacteria will either die or be rendered unable to reproduce, sterilizing the surface. However, since UVC lights work by destroying DNA, they can be used to rid a surface of viruses as well. This makes them extremely effective for many sanitation purposes.

UVC bulbs make them potentially hazardous to the people using them, so proper care must be taken then operating them. That being said, they are widely used in the treatment and sanitation of surfaces for food preparation, wastewater treatment, and other disinfection and sterilization as required by specific industries.

While many types of UV light bulbs that you will come across are germicidal UVC lamps, UVA and UVB bulbs have specific purposes as well.

Some UVA bulbs are identifiable by a much more familiar name - blacklight blue lamps. These lamps emit UV radiation that is at the lower end and right near the border of the visible spectrum. Blacklight blue lamps have some specialized uses - you might be most familiar with their usage in club lighting, as they are the lights that make whites glow a wild purple, but they are also used to detect stains and identify forgeries in some materials. These types of bulbs, though they are not necessarily harmful as UVC bulbs can be, should still be handled with care and exposure should still be limited.

There are also UV bulbs are known as black light lamps. These lights are not the same as black light blue lamps and have more specialized uses, as in sun tanning salons and in polymerizing and curing photoreactive materials. Because UV light attracts insects, these are also the types of lamps that are used with bug zapping lamps. That is also the reason they glow that familiar color.

There are a lot of technical specifications that differentiate UV light bulbs and the purpose for which you need them will dictate the type you need to buy. If you need help with some of the nuances of the different types of bulbs and aren’t exactly sure what to be shopping for, get in touch with our team at 888-988-2852. We have germicidal lamps, blacklights, blacklight blue lamps, and other specialty bulbs, but we also have years of experience to help you find what you need. Our customer service is second to none, so if you need some more information on products or need help selecting bulbs, get in touch with us today.