A device that bears a striking resemblance to the fictional robot in Star Wars film series known as R2-D2 can clean a hospital room just as well as a human being and prevent the spread of "superbugs", says an Indian-origin researcher.

Chetan Jinadatha, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, studied the effectiveness of this germ-zapping robot called pulsed xenon ultraviolet (UV) light system.

When compared the effectiveness of manual disinfection alone to manual disinfection plus the use of UV light, Jinadatha earlier found that manual cleaning plus UV light killed more than 90 percent of the bacteria, compared to 70 percent with manual cleaning alone.

Of particular note was the fact that manual disinfection plus UV light killed 99 percent of the bacteria that cause MRSA, he noted.

In his latest study, Jinadatha looked at the effectiveness of the UV light disinfection by itself.

This study found that in just 12 minutes, the UV light system cut the amount of bacteria in the room by about 70 percent — roughly the same level of effectiveness as manual disinfection.

The device has a large saucer-shaped head on top of a column that rises up to reveal a bulb filled with xenon gas, Jinadatha noted.

When the system is switched on, high-voltage electricity passes through the bulb and releases a spectrum of the UV light that binds to the DNA of organisms and kills them.

The study was published in the American Journal of Infection Control.