NTU Singapore researchers build disinfection robot to help cleaners during COVID-19 outbreak – Chemical Engineering



Source: NTU Singapore

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (NTU Singapore; www.ntu.edu.sg) have developed a semi-autonomous robot capable of rapidly disinfecting large areas. Researchers plan to have public trials to support Singapore’s fight against COVID-19.

Dubbed eXtreme Disinfection roBOT (XDBOT), it can be controlled wirelessly via a laptop or tablet, eliminating the need for cleaners to be in contact with surfaces, reducing the risk of catching the virus from areas potentially contaminated.

In this current COVOD-19 outbreak, there is a nationwide demand for deep cleaning and disinfection services (www.todayonline.com/singapore/covid-19-outbreak-cleaners-work-more-hours-disinfection-tasks- firms-face- labor shortage). According to media reports, cleaners’ working hours have doubled to 16 hours per day due to labor shortages.

The new robot differs from other disinfection robots currently on the market which are primarily intended for cleaning and vacuuming floor surfaces and are unable to disinfect irregularly shaped surfaces or anything above ground level.

Composed of a semi-autonomous control unit with motorized wheels, XDBOT has a six-axis robotic arm that can mimic human movement to reach difficult places such as under tables and beds, as well as handles. door, table tops and switches.

And instead of a conventional pressurized spray nozzle, it uses an electrostatically charged nozzle to ensure a wider and deeper distribution of the disinfectant, behind and on hidden surfaces.

Unlike typical nozzles, the XDBOT nozzle discharges chemicals with a positive electrical charge. These disinfectants will then be attracted to all negatively charged surfaces. Surfaces already coated with disinfectant will then repel the spray, making this method very effective. This concept of charge attraction is similar to how the positive and negative poles of magnets are attracted to each other.

Project leader Professor Chen I-Ming, a roboticist at NTU Robotics Research Center, said the XDBOT was designed when COVID19 cases began to increase around the world in mid-February and disinfection efforts were stepped up at Changi Airport, local hotels and hospitals (www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/coronavirus-covid-19-changi-airport-12431756).

“To stop the transmission of a virus, we need a way to quickly disinfect surfaces, which is a labor-intensive and repetitive activity,” explained Professor Chen.

“Using our new remote robot, a human operator can precisely control the disinfection process, increasing the area cleaned up to four times, without any contact with the surfaces.”

Professor Chen is also the founder and CEO of Transforma Robotics, a technology spin-off from NTU Singapore. The XDBot was developed by NTU scientists working with Transforma Robotics and two other NTU spin-offs, Hand Plus Robotics and Maju Robotics, with the help of two industry partners: Asia Center of Technologies (ACOT) and Tungray Singapore Pte Ltd.

Developed and built on the NTU Smart Campus, the robot went from a theoretical concept to an operational prototype in two months.

Through its Smart Campus vision, NTU aims to harness the power of digital technology and technological solutions to support better learning and life experiences, discovery of new knowledge and sustainability of resources, in support of ambitions Smart Nation of Singapore.

NTU Senior Vice President (Research) Professor Lam Khin Yong said the rapid development of the robot exemplifies NTU’s ability to deliver innovative solutions to global challenges that draw on a wide range of research strengths. university.

“During this difficult time, we are proud that our scientists have come together and gone the extra mile to develop a local robotic solution to help address the current labor shortage in the automotive industry. sanitation and minimize the risk of transmission associated with COVID-19. “

Semi-autonomous for precise disinfection

XDBOT can semi-autonomously navigate any environment using LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and high-definition cameras, while its arm is controlled by a human operator – like a tank with a rotating turret. .

Currently, the operator can control the robot up to 30m using a laptop / tablet, which can be increased to 50m or more with more antennas installed on XDBOT.

The robot has a large 8.5L tank that can carry a variety of disinfectants suitable for different environments such as nurseries, hospitals, retirement homes and shopping malls. It can run for four hours continuously on a rechargeable battery and is estimated to be able to disinfect an area up to four times that of manual cleaning. Charging its batteries currently takes eight hours, but researchers say this can be further improved if fast-charging technology is adopted.

XDBOT has been tested in public spaces on the NTU campus, such as the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, North Spine Plaza, and the dining hall near Canopy K. In the future, the team is in talks with several health facilities and hopes to further test the prototype in more public spaces and local public hospitals.

If the trials are successful and with sufficient commercial demand, the three spin-off companies aim to develop a production-ready version of XDBOT and increase production to support Singapore’s efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Source: NTU


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