Boeing develops self-cleaning airplane loo

lights on in bathroom
© Boeing

Anyone who is been on a really long haul flight will confirm that the loos can get pretty rancid by the end. Now Boeing has developed what they call a self-cleaning lavatory that uses strong ultra-violet light to kill " 99.99 percent of pathogens, thus sanitizing all the lavatory surfaces." According to Boeing's press release:

“The UV light destroys all known microbes by literally making them explode,” said Jamie Childress, Associate Technical Fellow and a BR&T engineer. “It matches the resonant frequency of the molecular bonds on the outside of the microbes. We believe that using the far UV is the key to making those surfaces cleaner,” King said. “We position the lights throughout the lavatory so that it floods the touch surfaces like the toilet seat, sink, countertops, etc. with the UV light. This sanitizing even eliminates odors from bacteria so that passengers can have a more pleasant experience.”

The far UV light differs from the ultraviolet that is used in tanning beds so it isn't harmful to humans, but the system only operates when the bathroom is unoccupied. Which is a shame; they should have special lights to fry the humans who leave stuff in the sink or on the floor and are just slobs. Better still they should have a super strong flush cycle that sucks them right out of the plane. Or a trap door.

lights off© Boeing

But perhaps it won't be so bad as they will have hands-free faucets, hand dryers, toilet lids and seats and perhaps even a hands-free door latch. There is even consideration of a vacuum system to clean the floors. No mention if they are thinking about toilet-paper free bidet toilets. All of these technologies would play well at home too, although the energy use might be a consideration. Years ago we wrote that "The energy used in one [airplane toilet vacuum] flush is enough for an economical car to run at least 10 kilometers." Now we are adding lights and blowers and motors.

boeing sticker© Boeing

On Bloomberg, they note that a marketing pitch for the company used to be “If it ain’t Boeing, I'm not going.” They might want to revive that if these toilets take off.

Tags: Airlines | Toilets

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