Water disinfection applications will be worth $650M in 2023

After a current slow-down phase as the UV curing market starts to plateau, Yole Développement expects the UV LED market to reach $320M in 2020, from $160M in 2017, and then boom, driven by UVC applications, to reach $1B in 2023, as analysed in its recent report UV LEDs – Technology, Manufacturing and Application Trends 2018.

Even if UVC LED performance is still low compared to UVA LEDs, this has not slowed the industry’s investment and development. On the contrary, alternatives have been created to improve device power output from 10mW in 2014 to 100mW in 2017, at 280nm. This acceleration is further emphasized by recent announcements from UV LED manufacturers like LG, which will target 150 – 200mW packages by 2018 – 2019.

Since their inception, water disinfection applications using UVC LEDs have met with mixed results. This is because UV LED-based water reactors are dissimilar to UV lamp-based reactors. In a traditional water reactor, UV lamp efficiency is quite high since reactor efficiency is limited. Contrarily, UV LEDs are not plug-and-play devices and cannot be used in a similar reactor. Capitalizing on LED technology requires UVC LEDs to adopt new system designs that maximize reactor efficiency. To this end, several parameters – thermal management, optical design, fluid dynamics design, etc. – must be carefully studied, which increases reactor development time.

Several companies are involved in developing new water reactors, and all share the need to maximize water irradiation time (also called the “UV dose”). By creating a rotating fluid vortex, the water faces “forced irradiation” which therefore increases the UV dose received by each water particle. Designing such reactors takes time in order to ensure efficiency. Also, some investigation is required related to the reactor material, coating, heat removal, and LED wavelength. This means that companies developing UVC LED-based water reactors are still learning to improve system efficiency, a growth curve that requires years of prototyping and testing.

Meanwhile, the future seems promising for water disinfection. The number of companies developing such reactors is increasing, and some new applications are being targeted. Since it isn’t yet possible to replace the traditional UV lamp-based water reactor, UV LED’s salvation can be found in the consumer market, where lifetime and performance requirements are lower compared to industrial applications. One Spanish company has begun integrating a small UV LED reactor into a steam oven for water disinfection.

prensent future UVC LEDs appli water disinfection may2018 yole

(Source: UV LEDsTechnology, Manufacturing and Application Trends, Yole Développement, May 2018)

Steam ovens are one of the first consumer applications to use LEDs, and other applications might follow. We can reasonably expect UV LED integration in refrigerators, water purifiers, and perhaps even coffee machines, since all of these products have a small water tank. On a larger scale, UV LED integration can be expected in transportation applications like airplanes, where carrying bottled water (in addition to water in tanks) has a non-negligible cost. Additional applications, i.e. healthcare, life science, residential, and space exploration, should also play a role in UVC LEDs’ future integration.

Larger systems like municipal water disinfection are under investigation too, and two companies are developing systems based on UVC LEDs. They are still in the R&D phase and some pilot lanes have been installed, highlighting the fact that LEDs can be used for high flow-rate applications. Consequently, the first municipal application is expected next year and may increase traditional companies’ interest in UV LEDs, despite currently being in “wait and see” mode.

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UV LED May2018 Yole SampleUV LEDs – Technology, Manufacturing and Application Trends 2018

Within three to four years, disinfection applications will reinvigorate the UV LED market. Get more