Ambulance cleaning could be sped up with microwave sterilisation

8th of September 2021
Ambulance cleaning could be sped up with microwave sterilisation

A new microwave sterilisation technique developed in Scotland is claimed to dramatically speed up the process of ambulance cleaning.

The method uses electromagnetic waves, antennae, sensor beacons and a liquid layer to rapidly heat up and sterilise surfaces from a safe distance.

Leading the research team of microwave engineers, infectious disease specialists and polymer scientists is Dr Symon Podilchak, senior lecturer of radio frequency technology at the University of Edinburgh.

"The idea came to me when sterilising baby bottles for my newborn son at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020," he said. "I was using a microwave oven and I realised that if bottles could be sterilised in just a few minutes and were safe for a newborn child, then it was possible to scale up the technique for infected surfaces."

Cleaning an ambulance with conventional chemicals takes around 30 to 40 minutes, which adds pressure to the emergency services because vehicles are kept out of action for long periods. Scientists believe the new technique could reduce ambulance cleaning times to a matter of minutes.

Researchers have experimented with other ambulances cleaning techniques over recent years including peroxide aerosols, UV irradiation and infrared radiation. However, these have various downsides including potential damage to the cleaning surface.

A pilot microwave sterilisation carried out by the research team was able to deactivate the coronavirus at temperatures of 60 degrees celsius in just 30 seconds without degrading the cleaning surface. Other future uses for the technology could include sanitising operating theatres and the tables in restaurants, trains and aeroplanes.

 

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