ECE student’s COVID-19 sanitation device receives orders from Indian government 

By Chieh Hsu, Staff Writer

Ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, receiving packages that have been potentially contaminated by the virus became an issue experienced by households and postal services alike. 

Mihir Vardhan, a freshman in ECE at the UI, invented the “Terminator” COVID-19 disinfection machine series that would later serve the Indian Prime Minister’s office, the Indian Army and his own neighborhood. 

Months before his first semester at the University, Vardhan began seeing a need to contribute to his neighborhood using his engineering skills.

“It all started off when India went into its first lockdown, and my neighborhood was completely shut down,” Vardhan said. “The guards who were already overworked were asked to rub everything down and sanitize it with bleach.”

Vardhan received a request to make a protection device for the disinfection workers, and he came up with the idea of printing shields using his 3D printers.  

“Both my parents are electrical engineers, and they got my brother and I involved with circuits from a young age,” Vardhan said. “In eighth grade, I decided that I had to have my own 3D printer, so I made one out of trash collected from local dump yards.” 

Eventually, someone suggested him to incorporate Ultraviolet lights into a disinfection device. That is when he came up with the idea of the Terminator series. 

“The first solution we came up with was the Terminator Mega,” Vardhan said.“It was a 540-liter chamber that can sanitize anything you can put inside it. Any packages, vegetables, groceries, milk, meat, anything that went in my neighborhood would go through this giant machine, exposed to UVC light for about 90 seconds, and would come out perfectly clean.”

According to Vardhan, UVC stands for Ultraviolet C light. There are three types of Ultraviolet lights, UVA, UVB and UVC. We are exposed to the first two types from the sunlight, and they are not harmful to us. UVC light, on the other hand, can only be generated through special means. The 255-nanometer UVC light is germicidal and can kill viruses, and it is the standard equipment of the Terminator series.

Vardhan and several engineers in his neighborhood then made the Terminator Mini, which was designed for single households with about 140 liters of containing capacity. Building a disinfecting machine “that can sit at the door of your house” was the underlying idea for Terminator Mini, according to Vardhan.

“We needed a machine that could clean anything, even an entire room, and so that’s when the Terminator Turbo was born,” Vardhan said. The Terminator Turbo is not a chamber-based device. It is a robot with an arm equipped with UVC lights, along with UVC lights at the bottom, targeting the floor. 

Words about the Terminator series then began “spreading like wildfire,” and the Prime Minister’s office in Delhi contacted him saying that they wanted a Mega, and then the Army came to him, too, for six Minis.

“The Terminators were never a business for me.” Vardhan said. “I’m an engineer, and that’s all I want to be. I just want to offer technology that’s been available for a while, at a price that anyone can access. The Terminators taught me how I can take a prototype and turn it into something I can sell, and that’s all I wanted.”

Vardhan posts about his other projects on his YouTube channel “Making with Mihir” and his website.

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