What's a UV light's purpose?
Before we talk about UV lights in detail, we need to start with understanding more about UV itself. What is it? How is it made? Is it good or bad? Let’s start by answering some of these questions.
UV light, is short for ultraviolet light, and it is a type of electromagnetic radiation that is everywhere around us. It is one of those elusive things we can’t see with the naked eye. It comes from the sun as electromagnetic radiation is transmitted as waves, which are on the electromagnetic spectrum. This spectrum has seven different regions, based on various factors. The regions include infrared, microwaves, and X-rays, and UV is also one of these regions. It is a type of electromagnetic radiation that forms waves or particles, and it is very useful.
UV has a lot of energy, enough to cause ionization, which is where electrons break away from atoms. This enables the atoms to break and to form new chemical bonds. It is this characteristic of UV that you can see being used in everyday life. From disinfecting surfaces to negatively affecting skin and eyes, it can have good and bad side effects. But when we think about UV lights we are thinking about artificial UV, that doesn’t come from the sun. Some of these artificial sources of UV radiation include things like tanning booths, black lights and halogen lamps. This artificial creation is created by putting a current through vaporized mercury, and is used for many different purposes in UV lights.
There are some positive and negative uses of UV light. As UV contains so much energy and has the ability to break down atoms, it is no surprise it can be both useful and harmful. Tanning booths are probably the most well known use of UV lights to most people, and they are the most harmful. They recreate the same reaction when our skin comes into contact with a high amount of UV rays from the sun. The melanin in our body can’t protect our skin, and the UV rays actually damage the DNA in our cells, often causing skin cancer, so think again before you get under the tanning booth. There are many other helpful uses of UV in UV lights. They can be used to see things that you don’t see with the naked eye. These include carbon residue after fire, defects in artwork, fingerprints and blood in crime scenes, marks on counterfeit currency and the presence of hydrocarbons in environmental investigations. In these situations the UV light is used to highlight fluorescent marks or other materials that can’t be seen with the naked eye. UV lights are also used in healthcare and industrial settings. They are often used to disinfect and also treat water. Hospitals often use them to sterilize equipment quickly and effectively. UV lights are also used in your heating and cooling system. The UV light is used to sterilize the air even more than a simple filter can. This is particularly useful if you have pets, smoke in the home, or have someone sensitive to allergens. There is no doubt UV lights can be both useful and harmful, but overall they have a multitude of different purposes.