UVTube Description

Ultraviolet light produced by a germicidal lamp inside a treatment chamber. During the past 6 years, graduates students have been designing and testing a low-cost ultraviolet water disinfection device specifically for peri-urban and rural areas in poor countries, called the UV-Tube project.

Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory
Civil and Environmental Engineering Department
University of California, Berkeley


Amount of Water Treated
Low pressure mercy arc UV lamp can treat 1 or more liters per minute.

Contaminant Removal
UV lamps have been shown to kill 99.9 percent of vegetative bacteria, enteric viruses, and bacterial spores. Removal rates for UV lamps are lowered by the presence of organic matter, iron, sulfites, nitrites, and turbidity because these particles absorb UV radiation and shield microbes from being hit with UV rays. UV radiation does not treat chemical contamination or turbidity.

Ease of Use
UV lamp need to be cleaned regularly and handled with care because of their mercury content.

Benefits & Drawbacks

  • Large quantities of disinfected water can be obtained quickly
  • Minimal behavior change required
  • Moderate initial cost
  • Requires 110/120 volt or 230/240 volt AC power source
  • Lamp tube needs replacement every 6 - 12 months
Ideal Situation
Communities with solar or grid electricity and financial ability to cover most of initial costs.


UV lamp costs include the actual unit, electricity, and replacement bulbs, which are typically needed once a year. A small batch UV lamp system used at the community level and all related expenses typically cost less than US$1 per household per year. When used at the household-level, UV lamps and related expenses average US$10 to $100 a year.


Contact Information

  • Daniel M. Kammen, Website, Director
    Department of Nuclear Engineering
    University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720

  • Kara Nelson, Website, Professor,
    Civil and Environmental Engineering Department
    University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720