As a project manager in the department Pharma, Medical Devices & Hygiene, OFI expert Gabriele Ettenberger-Bornberg conducts applied research to further develop methods, optimise products and thus further increase safety in the health sector. In the research project “RobiDES”, she is currently focusing on the development of a hygiene robot that is designed to inactivate infectious germs through the use of UV LEDs. We asked the biotechnologist three questions about her work.
Briefly summarised: What is the RobiDES research project about?
Ettenberger: The focus of the research project RobiDES is to explore mobile, autonomous disinfection devices. The aim is to develop a hygiene robot that can support the disinfection of floors in healthcare facilities. In order to achieve a maximum reduction of infectious germs, we are currently investigating in the OFI laboratory to what extent a combination of different mechanisms of action makes sense. In addition to wiping with disinfectant, we are also investigating the use of UV-LED technologies for disinfecting biocontaminated surfaces.
What is the use of UV-LED all about?
Ettenberger: UV disinfection has been a validated technology for disinfecting pathogens on surfaces for several decades. A certain spectrum of UV radiation between 100 and 280 nm, the so-called UVC spectrum, has a germicidal effect. In simplified terms, it works like this: The intercellular components of microorganisms absorb UVC photons. These absorbed UVC photons then cause critical damage to the genome system of the microorganisms, preventing them from surviving and reproducing. The effect of UVC irradiation is therefore often referred to as inactivating microorganisms, not killing them.
Why is this research needed?
Ettenberger: The corona pandemic has once again made it very clear how important it is, on the one hand, to anchor hygiene processes and, on the other hand, to relieve the workload of healthcare professionals. Especially in hospitals and care facilities, disinfection and cleaning measures are carried out by specialist staff themselves or by specially trained cleaners. When there is a lot going on and there is also a shortage of staff, there is simply not enough time to conscientiously implement all the measures laid down in hygiene concepts. An autonomous hygiene robot that assists in the disinfection of floors can relieve skilled staff – and ensure even more continuity in the implementation of hygiene measures.
The research project RobiDES is funded by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) and carried out within the framework of the COIN SME – Innovation Networks programme. In addition to the OFI, HYGline GmbH, Lumitech Lighting Solution GmbH, Markas GmbH and RobArt GmbH are part of the project consortium.