Upper-room ultraviolet air disinfection might help to reduce COVID-19 transmission in buildings: a feasibility study

PeerJ. 2020 Oct 13;8:e10196. doi: 10.7717/peerj.10196. eCollection 2020.


As the world's economies come out of the lockdown imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an urgent need for technologies to mitigate COVID-19 transmission in confined spaces such as buildings. This feasibility study looks at one such technology, upper-room ultraviolet (UV) air disinfection, that can be safely used while humans are present in the room space, and which has already proven its efficacy as an intervention to inhibit the transmission of airborne diseases such as measles and tuberculosis. Using published data from various sources, it is shown that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the causative agent of COVID-19, is highly likely to be susceptible to UV-C damage when suspended in air, with a UV susceptibility constant likely to be in the region 0.377-0.590 m2/J, similar to that for other aerosolised coronaviruses. As such, the UV-C flux required to disinfect the virus is expected to be acceptable and safe for upper-room applications. Through analysis of expected and worst-case scenarios, the efficacy of the upper-room UV-C approach for reducing COVID-19 transmission in confined spaces (with moderate but sufficient ceiling height) is demonstrated. Furthermore, it is shown that with SARS-CoV-2, it should be possible to achieve high equivalent air change rates using upper-room UV air disinfection, suggesting that the technology might be particularly applicable to poorly ventilated spaces.

Keywords: Air transmission mitigation; COVID-19; Presence of humans; SARS-CoV-2; Ultraviolet; Upper room UV-C.

Grants and funding

The authors received no funding for this work.