Irish start-up tests its coronavirus disinfection solution with HSE

16 Mar 2020

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Irish start-up Akara Robotics is rapidly developing a technology to keep hospitals clean of coronavirus.

At present, every good citizen is paying close attention to their handwashing technique in order to limit the spread of coronavirus. Disinfecting surfaces is also an important tactic as we try to quell the cases of Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, and for this, Akara Robotics might have a game-changing solution.

The start-up helmed by Dr Conor McGinn spun out of the Trinity College Dublin robotics lab and is best known for creating Stevie, the social robot making friends with carers and residents in elder care settings.

Now, the company is rapidly developing a solution to deploy in Irish hospitals to help keep things clean of coronavirus.

UV light for sterilisation

Inventor McGinn turned his attention to the sterilisation properties of UV light about a year ago.

Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation uses UV light at sufficiently short wavelengths to break down micro-organisms’ DNA, which stops them from replicating. In the case of a virus, this can seriously stop the spread of infection. As a complement to other cleaning methods, bathing a room in the right light could ensure no hidden nasties.

At Akara, McGinn has been experimenting with UV light sterilisation, performing tests to determine the wavelength, distance and angles that achieve the best results.

Having built up a record of data from this experimentation, McGinn reached out to Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) last week with the proposal that Akara could put this information to use during the present pandemic.

Rapid development

Taking their research to date and with the HSE engaged, the team was able to turn around a prototype robotic solution within a day. An in-hospital demo was due to take place today (16 March) and, if effective, this could be transformative for the healthcare sector.

UV light sanitation systems for hospitals are already available but are known to be bulky and costly. McGinn’s vision is for a simpler solution based on research conducted into the most effective use of the UV light, which would undercut any other solution out there.

Speaking to him last week, he explained how excited he was to bring this solution from Akara to the HSE at a critical juncture. It’s a credit to what he called a “top-performing team” who are looking forward to having a positive impact.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.