Cleaning robots could be used to collect anthrax spores

Cleaning robots could soon be used by first responders to effectively collect anthrax spores in the event of a biological weapons attack, researchers at the Environmental Protection Agency report.

Potentially contaminated ares are typically tested by first responders who wipe hard surfaces with a sponge or by collecting carpet samples with a vacuum hose. These tests, however, account for only a small area and can slow cleanup and recovery after a large-scale attack, Chemical and Engineering News reports.

Cleaning robots, such as the commercially-available Roomba, according to a recent study, might be able to cover more area and provide superior spore collection abilities.

The researchers tested five cleaning robots by spreading approximately one million anthrax spores per square foot on the floor of a test chamber. Tests were then run in a carpeted chamber and a laminate floor chamber. The researchers then compared the robots to two standard collection methods, according to Chemical and Engineering News.

The robots were allowed nine minutes for the test, with the best performing robot collecting 62 percent more sports in the carpet test than a traditional vacuum, while the best robot collected 38 percent fewer spores in the laminate floor test.