In response to the government’s call for innovative research and technological ideas to aid its battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Ropar have conceptualised a doffing unit station where medical staff can safely dispose-off their personal protective equipment (PPE) after completing their COVID-19 related duties. The team is currently in conversation with manufacturers to produce the prototype and bring the unit to hospitals.
A doffing unit or station is a place where healthcare workers can safely deposit their PPE kits or other safety equipment and sanitise themselves after completing their work in infectious environments such as ward for COVID-19 patients. The unit, conceptualised by the IIT researchers will also enable disinfection of the kits and equipment so that they are safe to collect later and re–use.
The research team which includes Dr Khushboo Rakha, her father Dr Naresh Rakha, and assistant professor Dr Dhiraj Mahajan was already working on conceptualising a disinfection technology using negative pressure before the institute received an email from the government’s COVID-19 task force calling for submissions of doffing unit models.
“We have used negative pressure technology which does not allow for the virus to transfer to the air, and have also used UGVI technology to further reduce the risk of the virus spreading from the doffing unit,” says Dr Khushboo Rakha.
To ensure complete sterilisation, the unit begins with a disinfecting tunnel which uses safe and effective chemicals approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The unit contains two chutes, one through which the PPE is disinfected for recycling, and another for complete disposal of the kit. Both the chutes have UVC light germicidal tubes to ensure complete sterilisation. The unit will maintain negative pressure and will also contain UVC bulbs for further sterilisation. The researchers recommend the use of copper and brass in the unit since these metals have anti-microbial technologies.
According to Dr Rakha, when the prototype is realised, its manufacturing cost will be around Rs 15,000 if it is built into an already existing room at the hospital. “However if we make a separate mobile doffing unit, the cost will increase,” adds Dr Rakha.
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