In what could change the way the world looks at lights, Japanese researchers have created a first low-power flexible vacuum ultraviolet lamp.
The solid-state lamp emits high-energy ultraviolet (UV) light at the shortest wavelengths ever recorded for such a device - from 140 to 220 nanometres.
This is within the range of vacuum-UV light - so named because while light of that energy can propagate in a vacuum, it is quickly absorbed by oxygen in the air.
“Our lamp is a promising light source in terms of lifetime, size, heat conduction and stability. It has the potential to be an excellent alternate light source to low-pressure mercury lamps, excimer lamps and deuterium lamps,” explained Shingo Ono of Nagoya Institute of Technology in Japan.
This fact makes vacuum UV light extremely useful for industrial applications from sterilising medical devices to cleaning semiconductor substrates.
“Because when it strikes oxygen-containing molecules on a surface, it generates highly reactive oxygen radicals, which can completely destroy any microbes contaminating that surface,” Ono informed.
Existing commercial vacuum UV lamps are bulky and expensive.
They also use a lot of power, run hot, have short lifetimes and contain toxic gasses that can pollute the environment and harm people.
“The new lamp avoids those issues because it was fabricated with a solid-state phosphor which is easy to make, avoids the use of toxic gasses and does not require expensive rare earth elements,” the researchers noted in a paper published in the journal APL-Materials.