Utilizing light to purify water isn’t a new idea, but Ohio State University researchers recently developed a portable, cheap way to cleanse water with light anywhere in the world. Their LED foil prototype has the potential to revolutionize water purification with deep-ultraviolet (UV) light.

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Deep-UV lights are already used to purify medical equipment and water, but such light usually comes from cumbersome mercury lamps. By putting LED lights on metal foil, the Ohio State researchers may have avoided the problems usually associated with purifying water with deep-UV light. They designed their LEDs to glow with that sterilizing deep-UV light, and when their flexible prototype is folded around objects and energized, it could kill dangerous microorganisms.

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Roberto Myers, materials science and engineering associate professor at Ohio State, said in a statement, “Right now, if you want to make deep ultraviolet light, you’ve got to use mercury lamps. Mercury is toxic and the lamps are bulky and electrically inefficient. LEDs, on the other hand, are really efficient, so if we could make UV LEDs that are safe and portable and cheap, we could make safe drinking water wherever we need it.”

The LED foil could offer a more environmentally friendly light to purify water. The researchers are confident they will be able to scale up their prototype; their goal is to transform nanophotonics, a study centered around how objects just nanometers big interact with light, into a profitable industry.

“People always said that nanophotonics will never be commercially important, because you can’t scale them up,” said Myers. “Well, now we can. We can make a sheet of them if we want.”

The journal Applied Physics Letters published the researcher’s paper on the LED foil. The researchers will continue working to make the LEDs shine brighter.

Via New Atlas

Images via Brelon J. May courtesy of The Ohio State University and Wikimedia Commons