Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a new robot to help fight the new coronavirus. This autonomous machine emits UVC, a short wavelength of ultraviolet light that kills microorganisms and destroys their DNA. The robot is a joint project between mIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Ava Robotics. Because ULTRAviolet rays are harmful to humans, the machine is used to disinfect the site after workers leave work.
A prototype that has been deployed at the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) should be able to cover 4,000 square feet in 30 minutes at a speed of 0.22 miles per hour. Ultraviolet rays emitted by the four vertical bars can neutralise about 90% of the new coronavirus particles on the surface.
During the Covid-19 crisis, food banks were more important than ever because many people lost their jobs as a result of the outbreak. Keeping facilities free from virus infection is critical to ensure that the virus does not spread further. “Food banks provide important services to our communities, so it’s critical to help keep these businesses running,” said Alyssa Pierson, a research scientist at CSAIL. “Here, there is a unique opportunity to provide additional disinfection power for their current workflow and help reduce the risk of exposure to Covid-19. “
The robot was originally operated by a remote user who taught it the path around the warehouse. It can then operate autonomously, moving between user-defined waypoints, which can be added or removed as needed.
Ultraviolet sterilization exposure is often used in hospitals and other medical settings to disinfect open waiting rooms for patients. The researchers hope the robot will eventually find a way to use it in other environments, including factories, restaurants and shops.
“We’re excited to see UV disinfection robots support our community when it comes to this need,” said Daniela Russ, CSAIL Director and Project Leader. “The insights we’ve gained from GBFB’s work highlight several algorithmic challenges. We plan to address these issues in order to expand the range of autonomous UV disinfection in complex spaces, including dormitories, schools, aircraft and supermarkets. “