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Boeing invents a self-cleaning airplane toilet

Image: Self-cleaning lavatory
Boeing’s prototype airplane lavatory uses far-ultraviolet light to sanitize surfaces. (Credit: Boeing)

In-flight services may be getting worse, but there’s at least one aspect of commercial air travel that might get better – thanks to the Boeing Co.’s self-cleaning toilet.

Boeing says its prototype lavatory uses far-ultraviolet light to kill 99.99 percent of germs in just three seconds after every use. The wavelength that’s used is deadly to microbes, but harmless to humans, the company says.

“We’re trying to alleviate the anxiety we all face when using a restroom that gets a workout during a flight,” Jeanne Yu, Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ director of environmental performance, said today in a news release. “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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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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