CSAIL robot disinfects a warehouse facility using UV-C light

Never has disinfecting and killing germs in businesses at home been more on the minds of people than it has during the coronavirus pandemic. For many years hospitals and other medical facilities have used UV light to kill germs and bacteria to keep people from getting sick. A new robot created by MIT's CSAIL is being used at the Greater Boston Food Bank to disinfects the warehouse using UV-C light.The creators of the robot say that it's able to disinfect the warehouse floor in half an hour. Similar robots could be used to grocery stores, schools, and other spaces to disinfect. The UV-C light source on the robot can disinfect surfaces and neutralize aerosolized forms of coronavirus. The actual light fixture attached to the robot was designed at CSAIL.

That light source was then attached to an Ava Robotics mobile robot base. The designers believe that the robot could be used for autonomous UV disinfection in other environments, including factories, restaurants, and supermarkets. While UV-C light is effective at killing viruses and bacteria on surfaces and in aerosols, the light is unsafe for humans to be exposed to.

This makes the Ava telepresence robot ideal for this form of disinfection, as it requires no human supervision. The typical telepresence top of the robot was substituted for the UV light source. That UV light source uses short-wavelength ultraviolet light to kill microorganisms disrupt their DNA in a process called ultraviolet germicidal irradiation.

The robot is capable of mapping the space and navigating between waypoints and other specialized areas. During testing, the team was able to use a UV-C dosimeter to confirm that the robot was delivering the expected dosage of UV-C light. The robot drives by storage pallets the warehouse at approximately 0.22 mph allowing it to cover a 4000 square-foot space in half an hour. The light delivered in that time span can neutralize about 90% of coronavirus on surfaces.