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The Bulgarian invention: A disinfection robot that destroys Covid-19

Photo: BAS

Similar to their colleagues around the world, Bulgarian scientists are searching for different solutions to the problem of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as ways to facilitate daily lives with the pandemic. A recent Bulgarian invention has the possibility to alternate the front-line medical routine for the better, providing medical professionals with a disinfected and healthy work environment.

When the pandemic became a fact, scientists from the Institute of Robotics with the Bulgarian Academy of Science became concerned with the question of finding ways to be useful through their scientific knowledge. They came up with the idea of transforming a self-propelled vacuum cleaner into a UV-light disinfection robot. The apparatus can be used for automatic disinfection of hospital premises, including any spaces possibly containing coronavirus, but also kindergartens, schools and homes.

“We built upon a robotic vacuum cleaner since we had to react promptly in such a situation,” explains Martin Ralchev , assistant researcher from the Institute of Robotics. “In that way, with familiar technological means, we have designed something new and useful – after disassembling the vacuum cleaner, we remodelled its logics and moving speed, and added a scanning sensor and a UV-light-emitting component. Of course, the robot has its limitations, such as the inability to use stairs, for instance. But it still successfully disinfects all spaces in hospital wards, containing Covid-19 – even under patients’ beds and crowded corridors.”

The gadget contains elements of artificial intelligence, and through its most essential component – a hard UV radiation emitter, it successfully neutralizes multidrug-resistant and super-bacteria, fungi, spores and viruses. UV rays are only directed towards the floor of the premise since 80% of the coronavirus contamination is localized there.

“The robot decontaminates without using liquid chemicals and disinfectants, which are considerably expensive on the market,” Martin Ralchev explains. “In addition, it does not further pollute the environment and spares people with asthma and allergies, as well as pets. Safety measures such as goggles or even leaving the currently UV-processed space are not necessary since only the surfaces are being irradiated.”

The invention will not entirely replace the hospital volunteers who disinfect the corridors and other premises with sprayers, but it will facilitate their work. Currently, the robot’s battery has a four-hour work time or a 400 square metres of working area. An improvement with new functions is upcoming – for instance, to transport medication to the infected wards, in order to avert close contact between the medical staff and infected patients.

The robot has already been registered in the Patent Office and currently, a producer is being sought.

“We hope to find a manufacturer with an appropriate factory since the Bulgarian Academy of Science cannot reproduce this robot,” adds Martin Ralchev. “We can only show our development method of the prototype. From here on, a manufacturer needs to show interest, and we will provide all documentation entirely for free. We are ready to go on the spot and assist in the production environment as well if there is interest in making a serial production for this robot.”

The scientists intend to donate their prototype of the disinfection robot to a hospital. If a manufacturer is found, the invention has the chances of being widely used since its price would be just around 400 leva or 200 euros. The robot was a development of a four-member team from the Institute of Robotics and the Centre of Competence QUASAR – Assoc. Prof. Avgust Ivanov, academician Chavdar Rumenin, Siya Lozanova, Ph.D., and Martin Ralchev, assistant.

English version Boris Totchev

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