UofL develops a disinfectant robot to help cleaning staff

In this current COVID-19 outbreak, there is a national demand for deep cleaning and disinfection services. In this regard, many companies and universities across the world are mobilizing to create innovative and relevant solutions in the context of the current health crisis, which has affected us since December.

Among them is a team of researchers at the University of Louisville (UofL), who is to use an artificially intelligent robot they call ARNA – “Adaptive Robot Nursing Assistant” – that can clean and disinfect areas that may contain the virus.

ARNA has been outfitted with U.V. disinfecting light and sprayable sanitizing agents, allowing the bot to sanitize commonly touched surfaces such as under tables and beds, as well as doorknobs, tabletops, elevator buttons, and light switches. This could remove the need for cleaners to be in contact with surfaces, thereby reducing the risk of picking up the virus from potentially contaminated areas.

In times like this, where we are battling a highly contagious virus, our health care professionals are at the forefront and are exposed to it,” said Sumit Kumar Das, the J.B. Speed School of Engineering research scientist leading the project. “We hope that our technology will help contribute towards providing solutions to the challenges that our community is facing right now.”

The robot was initially designed to help nurses with round-the-clock monitoring patients to focus more on direct patient care by taking on some of their time-consuming tasks. But then the team modified the design to allow for remote cleaning.

ARNA was tested in the Shumaker Research Building on UofL’s Belknap campus, and the team now hopes to test it in a hospital setting. ARNA is not intended to replace human cleaning and disinfecting staff, “but this robot could help keep people from getting sick,” said Dan Popa, who leads LARRI. “Because it is designed to clean areas that pose hazards to human health, it can help employers protect workers from potential exposure to those areas.

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