MIT has developed a coronavirus-killing robot for disinfecting warehouses, schools and grocery stores in 30 minutes flat, reports CNN’s Allen Kim.
The MIT CSAIL team worked with telepresence robot manufacturer Ava Robotics and the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB), to develop the new robot that uses a custom UV-C light to disinfect surfaces and neutralize aerosolized forms of the coronavirus.
Though initially built for warehouses, the CSAIL team contends that the autonomous UV disinfection robot can also be used in other environments such as supermarkets, factories and restaurants.
According to scientists, the Covid-19 virus mainly spreads via airborne transmission and is capable of remaining on surfaces for several days.
With states across the U.S. reporting a surge in cases and no concrete timetable for a possible vaccine, there is currently no near-term end to the pandemic, notes Kim.
That leaves schools and supermarkets looking for solutions to effectively disinfect areas.
While household cleaning solutions can reduce the spread of the virus, using the same to clean large areas such as warehouses or grocery stores is by no means an easy task.
An autonomous robot – like the one developed by CSAIL – could however do the job more quickly and efficiently.
In order to build their robot, the CSAIL team used the base of one of Ava Robotics’ mobile robots and modified it with a custom UV-C light fixture.
The UV-C array affixed to the top of the mobile robot emits a short-wavelength ultraviolet light that kills microorganisms and disrupts their DNA in a process called ‘Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation’ (UVGI).
This process is typically used in hospital or medical settings to sterilize rooms and stop the spread of microorganisms.
While UV-C light has proven effective at killing bacteria and viruses on surfaces, it still remains harmful to humans.
Hence the need for an autonomous robot: The CSAIL’s team tele-operated the robot to teach it to navigate around a 4,000-square foot warehouse by setting up predefined waypoints.
They are currently exploring how to use the robot’s onboard sensors to adapt to changes in the environment.
They are also working on making the robot capable enough to adapt to our world and dynamically change its plan based on estimated UV-C dosages.
Image and content: MIT CSAIL/Allen Kim-CNN