Using a custom UV-C light fixture designed at CSAIL that is integrated with telepresence robot maker Ava Robotics ’ mobile robot base, the system, say the researchers, can disinfect a warehouse floor in half an hour — and could one day be employed in grocery stores, schools, and other spaces. In tests at the Greater Boston Food Bank , the robot system was able to disinfect a 4,000-square-foot space in just half an hour.
"Food banks provide an essential service to our communities, so it is critical to help keep these operations running," says Alyssa Pierson, CSAIL research scientist and technical lead of the UV-C lamp assembly. "Here, there was a unique opportunity to provide additional disinfecting power to their current workflow, and help reduce the risks of Covid-19 exposure."
While proven to be effective at killing viruses and bacteria on surfaces and aerosols, UV-C light is unsafe for human exposure. Using a telepresence robot such as those from Ava Robotics removes the need for any human supervision. In this case, the researchers replaced the robot's standard telepresence top with a UV-C array, which uses short-wavelength ultraviolet light to kill microorganisms and disrupt their DNA in a process called ultraviolet germicidal irradiation.
The complete robot system is capable of mapping the space — in this case, GBFB's warehouse — and navigating between waypoints and other specified areas. In testing the system, the researchers used a UV-C dosimeter, which confirmed that the robot was delivering the expected dosage of UV-C light predicted by the model.
During the tests, the robot was able to drive by the pallets and storage aisles at a speed of roughly 0.22 miles per hour, enabling it to cover a 4,000-ft space in half an hour. The UV-C dosage delivered during this time, say the researchers, can neutralize approximately 90 percent of coronaviruses on surfaces.
For many surfaces, this dose will be higher, resulting in more of