Team at UVA creates robot to help prevent spread of COVID-19

Team at UVA creates robot to help prevent spread of COVID-19
Tomonari Furukawa and his team of engineers with the decontamination robot that helps kill COVID-19 pathogens. (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Trying to eliminate and prevent the spread of COVID-19 is a daunting task, but a new decontamination robot built at the University of Virginia may be able to help.

UVA professor Tomonari Furukama and his team of engineers are working on a new robot that uses ultra-violet light and heat rays to kill COVID-19 pathogens.

“In the new normal, decontamination is necessary,” Furukama said.

The team wants the robot to function independently in environments that are harmful to humans. So while it was originally designed to perform in the case of extreme temperatures, Furukama and his team said they realized how crucial using the robot to combat the coronavirus would be.

“We need things like this to come through. We can’t have a situation where the entire country shuts down again. We need to be able to deal with these things as quickly and as efficiently as possible," said team member Spencer Leamy.

The team says the robot has the capability of using 3-D imaging to decontaminate both horizontal and vertical services using a rotating arm, and is believed to be the first of its kind to completely decontaminate surfaces that are frequently touched but hard to completely clean.

Furukama said technology like this is necessary to keep people safe both in and out of hospitals.

“It’s not only about hospital decontamination, but all spaces where high-touch is operating," the professor said.

Team member Dean Conte said he’s grateful to have helped create something that could, in turn, help others.

“The reason I got into robotics was because I wanted to help people, and being able to adapt our project from previous work and to be able to directly impact society is really rewarding," Conte said.

Although the robot is still in its prototype stages, the team is ready for it to be put to use.

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