Even as the importance of reducing both noise and pollutant emissions continues to grow in modern aircraft, so too does the recognition of the importance of the passenger experience.
And in the ultimate focus on—if not gift to—the passenger experience, not to mention keeping costs down for customers, a team of engineers and designers at Boeing recently announced that they had developed a self-cleaning lavatory prototype that uses UV light to kill 99.99% of germs.
The cleaning system technology, combined with touchless features, is said to be able to disinfect all lavatory surfaces after every use in just about three seconds. The lavatory uses Far UV light that would be activated only when the lavatory is unoccupied.
Boeing describes Far UV as being different from UVA or UVB—the type of light in tanning beds—and at a wavelength of 100-200 nm, is not harmful to people. Its engineers have shown through testing on their prototype that the technology can minimize the growth and potential transmission of micro-organisms. Boeing has filed for a patent on this concept.
"In the prototype, we position the lights throughout the lavatory so that it floods the touch surfaces like the toilet seat, sink, and countertops with the UV light once a person exits the lavatory. This sanitizing also helps eliminate odors," said Jeanne Yu, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Director of Environmental Performance.
The cleaning system, which will require further study before it can be offered to airlines, would lift and close the toilet seat by itself so that all surfaces are exposed during the cleaning cycle. The design also incorporates a hands-free faucet, soap dispenser, trash flap, toilet lid and seat, and a hand dryer. A hands-free door latch and a vacuum vent system for the floor are also under study to keep the lavatory as hygienic as possible between scheduled cleaning.
"Some of the touchless features are already in use on some Boeing airplanes today," said Yu. "But combining that with the new UV sanitizing will give passengers even more protection from germs and make for an even better flying experience."