Several Fraunhofer institutes have teamed up in the "MobDi - Mobile Disinfection" joint project to develop a mobile robot. Armed with various tools, it could soon take over this responsibility.
Dr. Kristina Lachmann and her team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films IST have designed a respective tool for the robot that does not wipe but uses atmospheric pressure plasma to disinfect contaminated surfaces: "They are created by applying very high voltage to a gas under atmospheric pressure. This prompts the gas atoms to split into ions, electrons, and radicals," she explains in our MEDICA-tradefair.com interview. "Radicals break the bonds of organic molecules. Simultaneously, plasma glows. This creates UV radiation, which damages cells or destroys their DNA."
Not only does this protect hospital staff from the risk of infection, but it also eliminates the use of a rag or cloth, which can potentially spread germs and pathogens, Lachmann adds. However, it still takes conclusive research to determine whether or to what extent this method can substitute soak and wipe disinfection or at least be a viable complement.
Since 2020, the University Hospital of Regensburg has been involved in the "PACMAN" project, which takes things a step further. It is testing an antimicrobial coating for frequently used contact surfaces at high risk of pathogen transmission. When the coated surface is exposed to light, it generates a highly reactive oxygen (singlet oxygen) that kills bacteria and viruses on the surface. "The benefit of an antimicrobial coating is that it provides permanent protection without the involvement of staff. That also means, surface disinfection and antimicrobial coating complement each other," says Prof. Wolfgang Bäumler in a MEDICA-tradefair.com interview. The project will continue through October 2023.
The COVID-19 pandemic obviously affects issues of disinfection and sterilization, too. The “MobDi” project was launched explicitly to address pandemic concerns, while the “PACMAN” research had not yet factored in the infectious disease. However, intermediate results also indicate the effectiveness of the antimicrobial coating against SARS-CoV-2.
To meet safety and reliability requirements, the industry sector must also take the risk of infection into account. This pertains especially to delicate products such as implants and surgical instruments. In a MEDICA-tradefair.com interview, Frank Wolfsdorf, Sales Manager at SOMI medical GmbH, explains, "We take multiple countermeasures to reduce the risk of infections by maintaining a higher standard for hygiene, by providing personal protective equipment, and by conducting daily COVID-19 tests. We also use resources such as air cleaners in many rooms. They release negative ions into the air and activate oxygen to kill viruses, bacteria and germs and remove particles from the air."