Irish scientists have developed a robot that can disinfect hospitals and remove Covid-19 from surfaces in the continuing fight against the deadly virus.
Akara Robotics, a technology start-up attached to Trinity College, developed the robot emitting ultraviolet light to clean healthcare facilities quickly and thoroughly to help deal with the demand on hospitals as the number of Coronavirus cases escalate.
The robot, called Robot Violet, kills viruses, bacteria and harmful germs in a much shorter time than the usual cleaning methods.
It takes roughly five hours to sterilize a hospital room using standard cleaning practices. Robot Violet can complete the task in about half the time.
Dr. Conor McGinn, who invented the robot, contacted the Health Service Executive (HSE) during St. Patrick's week and told them that the robot could clean hospital surfaces more effectively than chemical products.
The robot was tested in a Dublin hospital last week and McGinn is awaiting microbiological test results which will confirm how effective it was.
McGinn said that the deep-cleaning methods that used chemical-based solutions were effective, but that they had several drawbacks. He said that Robot Violet could reduce some of these drawbacks.
“This system could reduce dependency on the use of chemical-based solutions, which may be effective but requires rooms to be vacated for several hours during sterilization, making them impractical for many parts of the hospital," he said on Twitter.
Many pieces of hospital equipment cannot be deep cleaned using chemical products and so have to be cleaned manually. Robot Violet's ultraviolet germicidal irradiation would greatly enhance this cleaning.
This system could reduce dependency on chemical-based solns like hydrogen peroxide, which may be effective but requires rooms to be vacated for several hours during sterilization, making them impractical for many parts of the hospital @HSE_DA @HSELive #covidireland #violetrobot https://t.co/KqScBztLv6— Conor McGinn (@thebotmechanic) March 17, 2020
Robot Violet uses ultraviolet light at sufficiently short wavelengths to break down a microorganism's DNA and stop them from replicating. In the case of a virus, it can stop the spread of infection and complement other cleaning methods to ensure that all areas are disinfected.
McGinn said that the HSE was supportive of his efforts but that it wanted proof that the robot was effective at killing viruses and bugs before it could be used in practical ways by cleaning staff.
Since the robot uses ultraviolet light, which damages skin and eyes, it has a number of safety features to protect those who use it. For instance, it uses artificial intelligence to automatically shut down if a human automatically steps in front of it.
Akara Robotics has been examing the sterilization properties of UV light for the best part of a year and built the prototype that was used in last week's test in less than a day.
The start-up, which employs seven people, could make 50 robots in the coming week to speed up the cleaning process in hospitals, according to McGinn. They could have their first robot ready as early as next week.
“We are very happy with the progress we are making,” McGinn told the Irish Times.
Akara Robotics previously developed Robot Stevie, a world-renowned robot that makes friends with carers and residents in elder care facilities.