Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Increasing Use of UV LEDs

In recent years, as the technology of ultraviolet (UV) light emitting diodes (LEDs) has improved, the use of UV LEDs has significantly increased.  An extensive search of the Internet has found references to UV LEDs used in the following applications:

Back light
Chemical synthesis
Cosmetics sterilization
Counterfeit money detection
Curing of coatings, inks, and adhesives
Disinfection and purification
Forensic applications
Instrumental chemical analysis
Medical therapies
Optical sensing
Plant growth

However, also found are stated problems that are hindering even further UV LED uses.    Problems stated include:

Insufficient photo-initiators in the right UV ranges
Lack of diodes generating needed wavelengths
Lack of heat
Oxygen inhibition
Slow curing rates compared to mercury lamps
Lack of standardization guidelines
Suitable substrates
Thermal management

The 2013 market for UV LED products is estimated to be in the range of $40 to $50 million. This estimate is provided by producers of market research reports, which can be purchased.  The same reports estimate the sales compound annual growth rates (CAGR) of these products to be in the 30 to 43% range over the period 2013 to 2018.   So, if in 2013 sales is $45 million and the CAGR is 36.5%, in 2018, UV LED products will have sales of about $213 million.

On the basis of the above referenced Internet searching, it seems to me that two critical technologies where development work is still going on and where successes are crucial to increasing use of UV LEDs are:

1.  Enhancing the chemistries that are triggered by the UV, e.g. better photo-initiators; and
2.  More efficient and effective light emitting diodes (LEDs).

Some chemical companies doing photo-initiator, and related research, are: Bayer Material Science; DSM; Arkema; BASF; Cytec; Mitsui; and Evonik.

And some companies doing R&D to enhance UV LEDs are: Nitride Semiconductor; Semileds; Nichia; Seoul Semiconductor; and Sensor Electronic Technology

Although the current market percentage for UV LED products is relatively small compared to products using non-LED generated UV, this parentage is likely to significantly increase in future years due to the many advantages that generating UV radiation using LEDs offer.  Some advantages identified during Internet searching include:

Concentrated radiation
Longer life times compared to mercury lamps
Faster warm-up and cool-down times
Narrower power distribution
Lower heat generation compared to mercury lamps
Lower energy use compared to mercury lamps
Improved environmental affects, e.g. no mercury vapor, ozone,
and organic vapors
Consistent, predictable radiation output over time
Smaller wavelength generation range
More control over UV radiation generation compared to mercury lamps
Smaller, more compact associated equipment leading to more efficient processing
Lower maintenance compared to mercury lamps

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