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Robot To Help Stop The Ebola Outbreak

Update Date: Nov 24, 2014 10:27 AM EST

The US military has enlisted a new germ-killing weapon in the fight against Ebola. The weapon is a four-wheeled robot that can disinfect a room in minutes with pulsed of ultraviolet light. 

Right now, the robots are operating at three military medical centers and more than 250 other American hospitals are using the machines to destroy pathogens. 

Sending out 1.5 pulses per second in a 10-foot (three-meter) radius, the robots use xenon, a non-toxic gas, to create the ultraviolet rays that eradicate germs faster and more thoroughly than any human cleaning crew, doctors and officials said, the press release added.

"The robot is currently part of our Ebola mitigation strategy, but will be used across the hospital to combat a variety of other pathogens known to cause hospital acquired infections," said Alton Dunham, a spokesman for Langley Air Force Base, which acquired one of the robots in October.

The technique of using ultraviolet light is not new, but the new robot uses environment friendly xenon instead of mercury-vapor bulbs that are slower-acting and toxic. 

Experts said the disinfecting bot is just one example of how autonomous devices could play a crucial role in the fight against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The General Dynamics Land Systems MUTT, a robotic wagon, was cited as a machine already in existence that could be deployed now to help health workers in West Africa, said Robin Murphy, a professor of computer science and engineering at Texas A&M University, in the press release.

"The major takeaway was that robots do exist that could be immediately repurposed now to protect Ebola health workers," Murphy said in a report on the November 7 brainstorming session.

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