Robotics for the sanitization: the new AI Lab’s research

12 June 2023
Innovation Center, Publications, AI Lab, Innovation, Applied Research

Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center - drawing on the latest discoveries in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Neurosciences - continues to carry out applied research activities in its laboratories to identify innovative solutions in response to new social needs, counting on teams of highly qualified researchers.

For instance, companies are investing more and more in research of technologies useful to improve the quality and healthiness of the air in working environments, thus protecting the health of employees. However, the many innovative tools dedicated to sanitization on the market must necessarily be tested to verify their real effectiveness.

In this sense, the AI ​​Lab within the projectRobotics for sanitizing environments” - realized in collaboration with the Occupational Safety, Environment and Energy function -, after the research concerning the potential of robotic systems in the disinfection of surfaces through ultraviolet radiation generated by UV-C lamps, conducted an experiment aimed at testing the effectiveness of a machine equipped with EPA filters combined with photocatalytic activity to improve air quality in indoor environments.

The bactericidal activity is due to the production of reactive chemical species of oxygen (ROS), and the results confirm the effectiveness of this type of treatment.

The research conducted by Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center and occupational Safety management, Environment and Energy in collaboration with PIC4Ser - Interdepartmental Center for Service Robotics of the Turin Polytechnic - and EcoBioqual - company active in biological tests applied to the environment - was published in the International Journal of Life Science Research Archive with the article “Study on the effectiveness of an air treatment tool that combines filtration and photocatalysis”.

The article is edited by Irene Borgini, Matteo Nazzario, Dario Russignaga and Luca Maria D'Apuzzo of the Intesa Sanpaolo Group, Simone Pescarolo of Ecobioqual and from Prof. Giorgio Gilli of University of Turin.

Objectives, methodology and results of the research

The experiment was carried out with the objective of evaluating the effectiveness of a machine equipped with EPA filters combined with the photocatalytic activity of a UV lamp surrounded by a catalytic metal composed of titanium dioxide (TiO2).

To test the sanitizing ability, a fan was equipped with a UV lamp and an EPA filter. The air flow treated by the fan was measured and was found to be 315 m3/h without filters, and 215 m3/h with filters.

The study took place in a standard 120 m meeting room3, with the device lifted about 30 centimeters off the ground and positioned 2 meters from the walls. Multiple experiments over several days were conducted, with double or triple sampling at different points in the room: one near the catalyst and the other on the opposite side.

For the multiplication of microorganisms, was prepared a 200 ml stock culture of soy casein extract (TRL) in which 0,5 grams of milk powder were dissolved. Subsequently, 1 gram of Lactococcus lactis was inoculated. The sampling of the aerosol was carried out with 90 mm diameter plates, containing a culture medium composed of a yeast extract with glucose and powdered milk.

The ability of the species of bacteria Lactococcus lactis to survive in the air for more than 30 minutes has been demonstrated, making it an ideal non-harmful candidate for studies on contamination in the workplace.

The reduction of the bacterial load was verified by monitoring the variation of this parameter over time in two specific cases (active and non-active disinfection system), showing a consistent reduction in microbial load and slower natural decay near the micro-organism propagation source.

Finally, the replication of the experiment with the removal of filters, useful to verify the effectiveness of the photocatalytic component only, showed no difference in the results.