Xenex Germ-Killing Robots Help Zap Ebola

Image via Xenex

It sounds like something from a sci-fi movie: a germ-zapping robot that emits pulses of purple UV light to clean surfaces and sterilize hospital rooms. However, Xenex’s robotic cleaners aren’t science fiction; in fact, they’re now being used in Dallas’s Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, currently home to the U.S.’s first Ebola patient.

Xenex’s Dr. Mark Stibich told KENS-TV that these robots can clear a hospital room of germs in five minutes and destroy Ebola on any surface in just two minutes.

The Xenex UV disinfection system takes only 15 minutes to clean a room, according to the company. It’s typically placed in three different locations throughout a room for five minutes per position; its xenon-based bulbs send out pulses that are 25,000 times stronger than traditional mercury-based bulbs. It sends out these pulses of UV-C light toward “high-touch” surfaces (places that are more likely to carry germs, such as hospital bedrails). The light then fuses the DNA in bacteria and viruses, which kills them.

As Xenex futuristically puts it, “An overwhelming amount of DNA errors is incompatible with cell function.”

According to the company, once a room has been disinfected, there is no need to repeat the process. And although bright pulses of UV light may sound dangerous to humans as well as bacteria, it’s really not; Xenex states that UV-C light “cannot penetrate through glass, plastic, clothing or the top layer of your skin.” It also can’t penetrate glass, so it’s safe to be on the other side of a window while the robot is operating, as long as you don’t stare directly at the light and you’re not bacteria disguised as a human.

The robots are already being used in 250 hospitals across the country, reports KENS-TV; hopefully, these inanimate cleaners will go a long way toward spreading peace of mind as they prevent Ebola from spreading.