Researchers create autonomous robot that disinfects classrooms

An interdisciplinary group of Purdue researchers, including Purdue Polytechnic's Haoguang Yang (center), test a robot designed to disinfect classrooms. (Image courtesy Purdue Mechanical Engineering)

An interdisciplinary group of Purdue students collaborated to create the Purdue Campus Patrol Robot, an autonomous robot that disinfects classrooms. The robot was the brainchild of Purdue Polytechnic’s Richard Voyles, the Daniel C. Lewis Professor of Robotics and director of the Robotics Accelerator.

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, Voyles and his students began wondering how robots they had already created for search-and-rescue operations could positively contribute to situations in classrooms.

“We did some literature research and found that there had been many projects aimed at building disinfecting robots that use ultraviolet light,” said Haoguang Yang, graduate research assistant in the School of Engineering Technology and a member of Voyles’ team. “There were also robots had been experimenting with using disinfecting sprays. But the problem with both of these approaches is that they are irritating to humans, and thus could only be used in rooms without occupants. What could we do in rooms with people?”

After Yang began adapting a standardized industrial robot, which uses four drivable wheels to navigate narrow paths, the research team realized that its air filter needed improvement — so they created an entirely new system called the Bernoulli Air Filtration Module.

“We don’t know of any other commercial robots that use air filtration for disinfection,” said Voyles. “If you’re trying to disinfect a room where humans are present, we’ve shown that this system is more effective than any other option.”

Their research has been published in Robotics and Autonomous Systems.

See the full Purdue Mechanical Engineering story by Jared Pike.

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