Three Unforeseen Challenges with Microbial Disinfection Testing of UVC Devices
At some point in your design of a disinfection system, you will send it out for antimicrobial validation testing. As with any experiment or test, regardless of your design or the test facility, things may not go exactly according to plan.
When preparing microbial disinfection tests and analyzing the results, it is important for project engineers to understand how various factors and steps may affect the results, and how a good procedure can mitigate the uncertainty from these challenges.
The first and foremost challenge is the human one: laboratory technicians or microbiologists performing tests, although very familiar with the microbes themselves -from growth to analysis- are often unfamiliar with UVC devices such as UVC water reactors or light modules.
Here are three challenges we’ve experienced with microbial disinfection validation testing of UVC devices that can easily be avoided.
Air trapped in a water reactor shortens the flow path, increases water velocity and therefore decreases the transverse time of water across the reactor. This leads to a reduced exposure time and lower UVC dosage. Depending on the reactor geometry and flow rate, air trapped in the reactor can decrease the disinfection levels significantly, by several factors.
There are two ways to minimize this risk:
For surface disinfection of pathogens placed on petri dishes, the disinfection level will be determined by both the placement of the LED(s) and the relative placement of the petri dish. Controlling placement is therefore essential to analyze the disinfection results. In particular:
Finally, in order to use microbial disinfection testing for validation of a design or concept, engineers should define a repeatable testing procedure that includes specific details related to the UVC elements for the laboratory.
The test procedure that accompanies a water reactor to a microbial disinfection testing lab should answer questions like:
This is not a complete list of questions, but we’ve seen that including these answers up front can improve the accuracy of test results, and more importantly to predict these issues and establish additional methods to address them.
A lot can go wrong with microbial disinfection testing, which is a critical step in the validation of product designs. Often these issues arise from a lack of understanding of the product being tested by a third party, or by insufficient preparation around all uncertainties from testing. Pre-empting these issues will accelerate validation and save a lot of troubleshooting efforts.