What is UV-C Technology and How Does It Help Fight The Pandemic?

The pandemic has continued to accelerate advancements in UV-C, unleashing new possibilities for applications in businesses and homes. As Singapore moves into ‘living’ with COVID-19 with faster testing and wider vaccination to be part of the new normal, it is timely to take a closer look at technological innovations that will allow day-to-day business activities to continue in the safest possible manner and homes to offer the maximum protection for inhabitants.

UV-C is a technology that has rapidly developed in the fight against the pandemic. Although it is not new, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting) saw the potential of the technology to support the fight against COVID-19 and made exciting advancements to create UV-C products that protect people both in public and at homes. Signify’s innovations have been proven to effectively neutralise microorganisms including the virus that causes COVID-19.

Jitender Khurana, Country Head and Managing Director of Signify Singapore


We speak to Jitender Khurana, Country Head and Managing Director of Signify Singapore to find out more about how UV-C and how it kills viruses as well as how safe it is in the workplace or at home.

Q: Tell us something about UV-C and its applications, particularly in relation to COVID-19?

The quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the cleanliness of surfaces we touch have a profound effect on our health and well-being. As we go about our daily lives, we are at risk of contracting and spreading bacteria and viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and its emerging variants. Ultraviolet-C (UV-C) has been known to be an effective disinfectant for air, water, and surfaces and is playing an increasingly important role in protecting people from virus infection amidst the pandemic, due to its practicality and versatile applications.

There are three types of UV radiation, namely UV-A, UV-B and UV-C, which are classified according to their wavelengths. Besides being part of the sun’s radiation, UV can also be produced by specialized lights. Lamp-generated UV-B is used to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis while uses of UV-A include sun-tanning equipment, curing of lacquers, and insect traps. With a wave-band of 100 to 280 nanometers, UV-C radiation has effectively been used to reduce the spread of viruses, bacteria, fungus, spores and mould.

UV in the electromagnetic spectrum

At Signify, our focus is on UV-C. In fact, we have been at the forefront of UV technology for decades and have built profound application expertise in this area. Today, our UV-C light sources offer protection against viruses and bacteria in a safe and sustainable manner.

Q: Has UVC been proven to kill the coronavirus? How is it better than other forms of disinfection?

UV-C has been used extensively by scientists for over 40 years against a wide variety of pathogens or microorganisms. It inactivates bacteria and viruses by destroying their DNA or RNA and stopping their multiplication. It has been commonly used in hospitals, food processing plants, and laboratories.

In June 2020, Signify collaborated with Boston University to validate Signify’s UV-C lighting efficacy to inactivate SARS-CoV-2 , the virus that causes COVID-19. Test results showed that with a specific dose of UV-C irradiation, the virus could not be traced after a few seconds of exposure to UV-C. This is an important milestone in the fight against COVID-19.

A key advantage of UV-C over other methods of disinfection is that it does not use any harmful chemicals nor require processes like heating, cooling or freezing to kill pathogens. If used properly, UV-C is a safe, sustainable, affordable, and environmentally-friendly method of disinfection.

Q: Is UV-C safe to use? According to NEA, there are safety risks in using UV-C sterilisers at home.

As with many other technologies, UV-C is safe when used properly. As direct exposure to UV-C can cause damage to our skin and eyes, it is essential to choose UV-C products with proper safety features and follow safety instructions with strict adherence.

Home users should always carefully check UV-C products, including those sold online, to ascertain that they are safe to use. It is advisable for consumers to buy from trusted, reputable brands and avoid buying handheld UV-C devices as they may be accidentally turned on.

At Signify, the safety of our consumers is our utmost priority and all our UV-C products have built-in safety features. For example, our UV-C Desk Lamp includes a microwave sensor that will automatically turn the UV-C radiation off if any person or pet is detected within five meters. The lamp will only activate after the room is clear and no movement has been detected for 30 seconds. It also has a delayed starting feature so that the person who switches it on can move away safely before irradiation comes on.

Q: How about professional users of UV-C? What are the hazards and how do you ensure safety?

Again, only improper usage will make UV-C a hazard in a professional setting. UV-C is safe as long as usage and disposal strictly adhere to safety guidelines and only properly-trained individuals handle the entire process.

Professional users should be aware of the following:

  • UV-C lamps may generate ozone due to possible output in the 185 nanometer range. This is not desirable because the ozone concentration produced by UV-C in an enclosed space would be too high and can irritate our nose, throat, and lungs. To counter this, Signify’s UV-C lamps use a special quality of glass to completely filter out ozone-causing radiation.
  • UV-C can degrade certain materials such as plastic, polymers, and dyed textiles. Professional users should seek advice from experts on how to overcome these problems. On the other hand, domestic dosage and durations are too low to cause any damage so consumers do not need to worry about this when using UV-C appliances at home.
  • UV-C lamps contain a small dose of mercury with a content that is similar to standard fluorescent tubes used in homes and workplaces. As mercury is considered a hazardous substance, caution is needed when handling UV-C lamp disposal.

Signify’s UV-C disinfection luminaires are only sold and installed by professionals according to our stringent safety and legal requirements. This ensures that these ceiling-mounted systems fulfil minimum height requirements. Together with shielding and optics, the systems disinfect only the ceiling cavity, allowing people to continue to work under it without any danger of exposure.

Q: What are the major trends in UV-C technology since the start of COVID-19?

A key trend is that UV-C applications have moved from the professional to consumer space. Traditionally, UV-C has been used by building facilities where a high level of sterilisation is required such as laboratories, food processing plants, and hospitals.

Now, UV-C products are being made available for home use and Signify is among the first to make disinfection technology easily accessible and safe for consumers.

The Philips UV-C Desk Lamp in the room and living area

Our first consumer product is the Philips UV-C disinfection desk lamp. Due to its small size, the lamp can easily be moved between rooms and stored when not in use. In addition, we recently launched the compact UV-C disinfection chamber. This mini box provides an easy and effective way to deactivate pathogens on personal items such as our phones, key chains, and wallet in a matter of minutes. It is simple to operate with easy controls and digital display.

Q: Is UV-C lighting adoption increasing significantly in Singapore? What are some examples of how Signify’s UV-C has been used in Singapore and around the world?

Last year, over 200 UV-C robots were deployed to disinfect malls, and in the healthcare and transport sectors. There has also been an increase in the use of UV-C chambers and cabinets. Recent adoptions in Singapore include UV-C used at Tan Tock Seng Hospital to disinfect its wards; and lamps that include UV-C radiation in air handling units of Jewel Changi Airport’s ventilation and air-conditioning system

Globally, Signify’s UV-C products are used in many European, Asian and North American countries in premises such as gyms, supermarkets, stadium dressing rooms, and healthcare facilities.

Q: Why should businesses adopt UV-C? How will it be critical for them?

As Singapore moves towards living with COVID-19 as an endemic, many businesses are looking for solutions that will disinfect their premises on a regular basis, without compromising the safety of their staff, customers or visitors. UV-C provides a safe, affordable and effective solution for them to gain the competitive edge in the new norm.

The UV-C Desk Lamp on a kitchen counter top

Q: Do you foresee UV-C products becoming as common as electrical appliances like vacuum cleaners?

Due to their versatility, UV-C products are likely to gradually become a common household appliance as the awareness of its sterilizing effectiveness and safety grows.

Q: Has Signify’s UV-C been certified to be safe?

Signify has been at the forefront of UV-C technology for over 35 years and safety has always been a top priority. Signify’s collaboration with Boston University in June 2020 has validated the safety and effectiveness of our UV-C products.

Q: Is it really safe to use upper air luminaires with people in the room? How does the upper air luminaire work?

Viruses and bacteria are mainly airborne and spread through breathing, talking, coughing, sneezing, the raising of dust or any activities that generate aerosol particles or droplets. Heating, cooling, and ventilation can further distribute them in an interior space.

With proper installation and method of usage, Signify’s upper air luminaires are safe to use. Designed to continuously disinfect the air, the Signify UV-C upper air luminaires are fitted with parabolic reflectors and non-reflective lamellas that ensure the UV-C light is directed only to the upper part of the room where the contaminated air travels towards the ceiling exhaust. The device has to be installed at a minimum height of 2.1m that allows day-to-day business activities to continue in the workplace below. These devices come with strict usage guidelines and are to be installed by professionals according to Signify’s stringent safety and legal requirements.

As validated by the test results from our joint research with Innovative Bioanalysis, our UV-C solutions are effective in the inactivation of the virus causing COVID-19 in the air within a short time.


For more information about Signify and their UV-C products, please visit their website www.signify.com.

Images: Signify

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