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Transportation Technology

Boeing's Self-Cleaning Aircraft Bathroom Lets You Use Loo Without Touching Anything 135

coondoggie writes: With barely enough space to um, sit, and with high capacity usage, the commercial airline toilet perhaps is an engineering marvel but little else. Boeing however is looking to that notion with a self-cleaning aircraft bathroom -- known as the Fresh Lavatory -- that the company says uses ultraviolet (UV) light to kill 99.99% of germs in the loo -- and even puts down the toilet seat lid. "We're trying to alleviate the anxiety we all face when using a restroom that gets a workout during a flight," said Jeanne Yu, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Director of Environmental Performance in a statement. "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 even helps eliminate odors."
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Boeing's Self-Cleaning Aircraft Bathroom Lets You Use Loo Without Touching Anything

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    does not in any way reflect the content of the story. If people leave paper or 'water' all over the floor, it will still be there.

    • by Type44Q ( 1233630 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @12:02AM (#51657175)
      Seriously. If I don't touch anything, I'm liable to piss all over myself.
      • Re: Article title (Score:5, Insightful)

        by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @12:09AM (#51657203)

        And thus how Aircraft bathrooms get in the state they do - everyone tries to use them without touching anything.

        • With high XP, and male tooling, it is possible to operate the entire session using only your feet. The one exception is using a knee to select the "occupied" lever.
          • How much XP do you require before your tooling can operate a zipper?
            • by fisted ( 2295862 )

              That would be the job of your female seat neighbor. Got two 300 pound manwhales on the four seats left and right? Tough luck!

          • We're getting into Howard Hughes levels of germ paranoia here. If you are worried about the "occupied" lever being dirty, just unlatch it and then wash your hands. Problem solved.
        • by Malc ( 1751 )

          Yeah the cleaning industry, media etc have done an amazing job exploting people's ignorance and paranoia about "germs", making a lot of people unreasonably neurotic. When I lived in N. America I couldn't beleive the number of adverts on TV on topics like making your home's kitchen more sterile than a hospital's surgery. And you wonder why we're having more problems with superbugs and people's immune systems are all messed up?

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Infectious disease is actually one of the major problems facing humanity. And there's a huge amount that can be done to reduce the incidence of infectious disease by reducing the rates of transmission. So the fundamental problem is ignorance - although that can lead to people putting their faith in ineffective methods of reducing transmission - which is paranoia in a very broad sense.

            Part of the problem is that there are just so many different pathogens out there in the world. First, down at the protein lev

          • Mind you, hospitals aren't all that sterile. In an article less than a year old [cnn.com], it was estimated that ~4% of hospital patients acquired infections while in the hospital. And having family members on a hospital staff, I've experienced how infectious diseases tend to concentrate in hospitals. MRSA infections of surgical wounds [webmd.com] come immediately to mind. . .but less serious infectious diseases seem to cluster in hospitals as well, like colds and influenzas. . .
            • If only sick people would stop going to there maybe there wouldn't be so many infectious diseases at hospitals.

              Part of the problem with transmission is that doctors and nurses are not as good as they should be at washing their hands. For example this study looked at two hospital wards and found doctors were about 47% compliant. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p... [nih.gov]

          • Yeah the cleaning industry, media etc have done an amazing job exploting people's ignorance and paranoia about "germs", making a lot of people unreasonably neurotic.

            I saw a commercial for an automatic soap dispenser that touted that you wouldn't get germs on your hands if you used it to get soap. My response was: But you're putting soap on your hands at that point, shouldn't any germs you get on your hands at that point just die/get washed off soon afterwards? Why would you need something like this at you

            • Soap doesn't kill germs. All it does is makes oily substances more likely to be pulled along by water than they were before.

              • Re: Article title (Score:5, Informative)

                by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @12:13PM (#51659317) Journal

                Soap doesn't kill germs. All it does is makes oily substances more likely to be pulled along by water than they were before.

                Soap certainly kills some germs. There are lots of bacteria and viruses which are vulnerable to the SDS (sodium dodecyl sulfate), a detergent widely used in hand soaps, shampoos, and a bunch of other sudsy consumer products. The detergent disrupts the cell membranes of many bacteria, and it denatures (unfolds) important proteins in many strains of viruses and bacteria.

                Sure, the improvements to mechanical cleaning and suspension of oily matter are important, too. And there are certainly some things (spores and other more robust pathogens) which are resistant to SDS and other detergents, particularly at short exposure times. But "soap doesn't kill every germ" is a long way from "soap doesn't kill germs".

            • by chihowa ( 366380 )

              Yeah, the automatic soap dispensers seem the goofiest from a germaphobic point of view. I think that they're installed to limit how much soap is dispensed and save money for the owner.

              Automatic faucets make a lot of sense, though. The faucet control is touched by everybody before they wash their hands and then again immediately after they wash their hands. It took seeing an actual smear of feces on a faucet knob to really drive home how ineffective manually operated faucets in public restrooms really are.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          I was on a 787 with ANA recently. First time I've ever dared to touch an airline toilet seat, except to lift it with a barrier of toilet paper for protection from cooties. I'm putting it down to having a proper toilet, not something that looks like it was borrowed from a prison cell, with a nice seat and washlet built in, and having cleaning supplies on hand. The ability to wipe the seat down with disinfectant is pretty important to me.

          I am kinda germophobic, although in my defence I do actually have a medi

          • Do you travel frequently with the American Numismatic Association?

        • by dj245 ( 732906 )

          And thus how Aircraft bathrooms get in the state they do - everyone tries to use them without touching anything.

          The first users, when the bathroom is clean, probably don't do that. It's when a bathroom starts getting untidy that a self-reinforcing feedback loop takes over. The dirtier the bathroom gets, the more successive users make it exponentially worse.

          Some airlines, particularly Japanese and Korean ones, have the flight attendants put on rubber gloves and clean up the bathroom periodically mid-flight. It's a bizarre concept, I know, but it seems to be a good solution.

          • What, someone doing the job that definitely is for someone else. No, you can't go around doing that. The union won't allow it!

      • by Chrisq ( 894406 )

        Seriously. If I don't touch anything, I'm liable to piss all over myself.

        Yes, it would be like taking a piss in the vomit comet [wikipedia.org]

    • Re:Article title (Score:5, Informative)

      by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @12:04AM (#51657181)

      Not as good as the self-cleaning street toilets I have seen in Paris.

      • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
        Yeah, my wife and I used those while in Paris. They seemed to be larger than needed and required 3 or 4 minutes between use to be ready for the next person.
      • I don't know about the self-cleaning toilets in Paris, only the ones in Switzerland. For a land-based self-cleaning toilet, it's okay to use a lot of water to rinse away the urine and feces that end up outside the bowl. On a plane you just can't carry as much so you have to be very water efficient. Hence an evacuation system rather than flushing. Nobody has talked about this. And as much as irradiating the germs sounds nice, it doesn't eliminate the gross toilet paper on the floor soaked with urine or t
      • by chihowa ( 366380 )

        I've had nightmares about being stuck in one of those during the cleaning cycle.

    • I tried not touching anything once but I ended up peeing on my shoe. Sometimes you need to shake that last trip off. And it's kinda frightening operating the zipper without tucking things in just so.

  • by MrLogic17 ( 233498 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @10:59PM (#51656865) Journal

    Sure, it's a good idea to kill of germs with UV light - but that ain't self cleaning. Someone sprinkles all over the seat, and leaves shaving hair in the sink, and you're going to need a lot more than a black light bulb.

    Sounds like this is a PR stunt to make passengers happy, without doing much on their end.

    I do wonder how all the plastics in the room will hold up with the extra UV light.

    • by VernonNemitz ( 581327 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @11:16PM (#51656957) Journal
      It depends on the surfaces being exposed to UV. Surfaces with titanium dioxide in them [sciencewatch.com] do tend to be self-cleaning.
    • by Deadstick ( 535032 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @11:34PM (#51657083)

      I liked the self-cleaning crappers in gas stations on the German/Austrian Autobahn. The seat is circular. As soon as you get up off it, the toilet flushes; a mechanical arm swings down with a sprayer and a brush; and the sprayer shpritzes and the brush spins while the seat rotates 360,

      You have to drop one euro in a slot to get in, but it gives you a receipt that gets you your money back if you buy anything.

    • by throx ( 42621 )

      Sure, it's a good idea to kill of germs with UV light - but that ain't self cleaning. Someone sprinkles all over the seat, and leaves shaving hair in the sink, and you're going to need a lot more than a black light bulb.

      It really all depends on how much UV you use, doesn't it? (evil grin)

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      I do wonder how all the plastics in the room will hold up with the extra UV light.

      In 1986 I knew a few chemists that were working on making sure that they would.
      Is this supposed to be news for nerds or for people decades out of touch?

  • Lets You Use Loo Without Touching Anything

    Welllll... I might have to touch ONE thing at least or else there will be a mess on my shoes.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They should use the Tesla robotic tentacle to make it touchless.

    • Lets You Use Loo Without Touching Anything

      Welllll... I might have to touch ONE thing at least or else there will be a mess on my shoes.

      We have a solution for that too! Boeing Potty 3.0 lets you go completely hands-free by interfacing your personal device directly with the exterior of the fuselage!

      The gentle vacuum seal and brisk sensation let you know you're ready to Defile the Friendly Skies(TM).

  • It's a dessert topping AND a floor wax.

  • Loo? (Score:5, Funny)

    by msauve ( 701917 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @11:05PM (#51656891)
    I can see Boing (a US company) calling it a bathroom, a restroom, a toilet, or a head. But loo? That's Airbus territory.
  • >> Self-Cleaning Aircraft Bathroom Lets You Use Loo Without Touching Anything

    I'm a man. I don't ever recall having this problem.
  • by darthsilun ( 3993753 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @11:20PM (#51656987)

    With barely enough space to um, sit, ....

    I see someone hasn't flown on a 787 or an A380 yet.

  • I'll use the designated shitting street.
  • by mdsolar ( 1045926 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @11:51PM (#51657133) Homepage Journal
    News for plumbers--stuff that flushes.
  • Quite obviously a PR/marketing stunt pandering to the obsessive fear of "germs", than any substantial improvement in the general quality of onboard health.

    It's no secret that the air in most long haul flights is unhealthy, with cabin humidity under 10% most of which being other passengers' body fluids. If Boeing and the airline industry really cared about the well being of its passengers it would modify the ratio of fresh to recirculated air [askthepilot.com] than make a big song about adding UV lamps in the toilets.
  • Of the time I ate too many prunes and had to skip to my loo.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Poor Mr. Loo

  • by GrpA ( 691294 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @02:09AM (#51657467)

    All germicidal lights produce copious quantities of ozone, which is toxic at concentrations at which your nose can detect it -

    Just another case of exchanging one form of toxin for another -

    GrpA

    • I expect they'll keep the room well-ventilated for odour reasons anyway.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      All germicidal lights produce copious quantities of ozone

      Nope. That requires UV with a wavelength shorter than 240 nm. Germicidal lamps or fixtures are filtered to block wavelengths below 254 nm. Of course, if you don't like ozone, you shouldn't be flying around in the upper atmosphere where all that ozone is pumped through the cabin in the first place.

  • A hands-free door latch ... also under study,

    This sounds wonderful for a bathroom door especially considering how reliable hands-free sensors always are.

  • by Edis Krad ( 1003934 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @04:10AM (#51657657)
    That jewel goes to the pulldown tray in front of you... where you eat your meals.
    http://edition.cnn.com/2015/09... [cnn.com]
  • Light can clean up puddles of piss?!
  • But will the toilet be smart enough to deal with this [youtube.com].
  • Because from what I hear, people do despicable things on them, and then little kids get on the next flight and pour cereal out onto them.
  • The size of airplane bathrooms you can't be in them without touching all 4 walls with one part of your body or another. Sardine can's would even be larger.

  • by PPH ( 736903 )

    From TFA:

    Boeing has filed for a patent on this concept.

    I've had a bathroom fixture with a germicidal lamp (fluorescent) for a few decades now.

    At one time, I looked into what it would take to replace my fluorescent lamp with UV-C LEDs. Close to a thousand dollars IIRC. I wonder if LED prices have come down significantly since then.

  • by Lauriy ( 1872558 )
    if there's shit slowly sliding down the wall I can keep calm as it's microbe-free?
  • The reason I 'miss when I piss' is because I am unstable from SITTING IN A SEAT THAT IS WAY TOO SMALL FOR ME - and I am a NORMAL sized person. Further, I am usually crammed next to someone that should have bought my seat as they take up 1.5 to 2 seats themselves. Airlines now charge extra for a seat with a little more room (Economy class, that is). My point is that Boeing (i.e. aircraft mfgrs) need to consider making even Economy class tolerable for humans. Perhaps they should ALL be required to fly econom

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