Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
TOILET SEAT STERILIZATION METHOD AND APPARATUS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2001/070277
Kind Code:
A2
Abstract:
A toilet seat sterilization apparatus having ultraviolet sterilization in an enclosed container to kill bacteria and other disease carrying organisms. The invention comprises an ultraviolet source within the toilet seat lid that irradiates the toilet seat thereby killing any microorganisms that might reside on the toilet seat. Ultraviolet radiation below 200 nm can also be used thereby creating ozone gas having germicidal characteristics. The ozone gas is circulating in and around the toilet seat and bowl thereby providing further sterilization together with the ultraviolet radiation. An interlocking switch turns the UV source off when the container is opened.

Inventors:
Roberts, Jon L. (529 Clear Spring Road Great Falls, VA, 22066, US)
Application Number:
PCT/US2001/008666
Publication Date:
September 27, 2001
Filing Date:
March 19, 2001
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
Roberts, Jon L. (529 Clear Spring Road Great Falls, VA, 22066, US)
International Classes:
A47K13/30; A61L2/10; (IPC1-7): A61L/
Domestic Patent References:
WO1999038540A11999-08-05
WO2000041733A12000-07-20
WO2000041734A12000-07-20
Foreign References:
US4819276A1989-04-11
US2332111A1943-10-19
US2616097A1952-11-04
FR2354742A11978-01-13
FR2195906A51974-03-08
Other References:
DATABASE WPI Section Ch, Week 199716 Derwent Publications Ltd., London, GB; Class D22, AN 1997-166190 XP002173065 & CN 1 092 323 A (YANG J), 21 September 1994 (1994-09-21)
PATENT ABSTRACTS OF JAPAN vol. 018, no. 553 (C-1263), 21 October 1994 (1994-10-21) & JP 06 197848 A (TSUYOSHI TANAKA), 19 July 1994 (1994-07-19)
PATENT ABSTRACTS OF JAPAN vol. 016, no. 315 (C-0961), 10 July 1992 (1992-07-10) & JP 04 090732 A (NORIMITSU OKUMURA), 24 March 1992 (1992-03-24)
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Roberts, Jon L. (Roberts Abokhair and Mardula, LLC Suite 1000 11800 Sunrise Valley Drive Reston, VA, 20191, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
What is claimed is:
1. A toilet seat sterilization apparatus comprising: (A) a toilet seat; (B) an upper lid attached to the toilet seat; (C) a first ultraviolet radiation source disposed within the upper lid; (D) a power supply connected to the ultraviolet source; and (E) an interlocking switch connected between the power supply and the first ultraviolet radiation source biased to the off position such that when the upper lid is in an open position the interlocking switch is not engaged and no power is supplied to the ultraviolet radiation source and when the upper lid is closed, the interlocking switch is engaged and power is supplied to the ultraviolet source.
2. The toilet seat sterilization apparatus of claim 1 wherein the first ultraviolet source emits ultraviolet radiation below 200 nm and creates ozone gas.
3. The toilet seat sterilization apparatus of claim 1 wherein the first ultraviolet source emits ultraviolet radiation above 200 nm.
4. The toilet seat sterilization apparatus of claim 1 wherein the lower container is oriented vertically to allow writing implements to be placed vertically therein for sterilization.
5. The toilet seat sterilization apparatus of claim 1 wherein the lower container is oriented horizontally to allow writing implements to be placed horizontally therein for sterilization.
6. The toilet seat sterilization apparatus of claim 1 wherein the first ultraviolet source comprises at least one ultraviolet emitting lamp.
7. The toilet seat sterilization apparatus of claim 2 wherein the first ultraviolet source comprises a plurality of ultraviolet emitting lamps.
8. The toilet seat sterilization apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a second ultraviolet source disposed within the upper lid.
9. The toilet seat sterilization apparatus of claim 8 wherein the interlocking switch further controls power to the second ultraviolet source.
10. The toilet seat sterilization apparatus of claim 3 wherein the ultraviolet source comprises a plurality of ultraviolet emitting lamps.
11. The toilet seat sterilization apparatus of claim 1 further comprising an indicator light connected to the interlocking switch and the first ultraviolet source such that the indicator light is lit only when the interlocking switch is engaged and the first ultraviolet source is illuminated.
12. The toilet seat sterilization apparatus of claim 1 wherein the power supply further comprises a battery.
13. The toilet seat sterilization apparatus of claim 16 wherein the battery is rechargeable and is recharged by the power supply.
14. The toilet seat sterilization apparatus of claim 8 where the second ultraviolet source emits ultraviolet radiation below 200 nm.
15. The toilet seat sterilization apparatus of claim 8 where the second ultraviolet source emits ultraviolet radiation above 200 nm.
Description:
Title: Toilet Seat Sterilization Method and Apparatus Field of the Invention The present invention relates generally to sterilization devices. More particularly this invention relates to a device for sterilizing toilet seats of all types using ultraviolet radiation and ozone gas in a semi-closed container.

Background of the Invention It has long been known that germs are spread by, among other things, hand-to-hand contact. Hence there\'s been much in the literature recently concerning the washing of hands in order to prevent the spreading of the common cold as well as other microbes. Further, it has long been known that toothbrushes can be a source of the spreading of germs as well.

Recently, it has been discovered that bacteria continue to live on writing implements there used by individuals. As such, writing implements can also carry microbes and therefore can be a vector for the spread of disease.

There is much prior art for the sterilization of various objects. For example, hospitals use sterilization routinely for surgical instruments. Typically such sterilization occurs both chemically as well as through high-pressure high temperature steam sterilization. This results in generally sterile instruments for use in surgery. The difficulty, of course, is that such devices are expensive, cumbersome, and are therefore not practical for the widespread sterilization of more common devices.

The spread of germs via bathroom articles has been the subject of invention. Many inventors have dealt with the issues associated with toothbrush sterilization. For example, patent No. 3,954,407 to Andary et al. discloses an automatic toothbrush sterilization comprising ultraviolet lamps. Similarly patent No. 4,088,445 to Ellis discloses a sterilization holder and night-light for toothbrushes. Patent No. 4,88,4072 Ritter discloses a toothbrush sterilizer with automatic control. Patent No. 4,772,795 to Sakurai et al. discloses an ultraviolet sterilizer for dental implements. Patent No. 4,803,364 to Ritter discloses a toothbrush conditioner comprising an ultraviolet radiation source. Patent No. 4,806,770 to Hylton et al. discloses another form of toothbrush holder having an ultraviolet lamp mounted within the housing.

Patent No. 4,906,851 to Beasley et al. discloses yet another form of ultraviolet toothbrush sterilizer and holder. Patent No. 4,973,847 to Lackey et al. discloses a toothbrush sanitation device having ultraviolet light source and a removable lid. Patent No. 5,023,460 to Foster, Jr. et al. discloses a toothbrush sanitizer having a centrally mounted ultraviolet bulb with cavities for receiving toothbrushes. Patent No. 5,126,572 to Chu discloses a toothbrush holder also having an ultraviolet source. Patent No. 5,127,521 to Bourgue discloses a toothbrush holder also having an ultraviolet light source. Patent No. 5,487,877 to Choi discloses a rest room organizer having a sterilization apparatus using ultraviolet light for sterilizing bathroom articles. Patent No. 5,547,635 to Duthei, Jr. discloses a general sterilization method and apparatus wherein microorganisms are exposed to ultraviolet light.

Thus it can be seen that much work has been done with respect to the sterilization of bathroom articles. With toilet seats, many attempts have been made to improve sanitation.

Continuous sleeves which provide a cover are in use, as are separate paper toilet seat covers.

However no attention has been paid to the sterilization of toilet seats, which may also carry disease-producing microbes, using other technology.

It would therefore be desirable to have a convenient, commonly available, inexpensive, and easy to use sterilization method and apparatus for sterilizing toilet seats thereby preventing the transmission of object-borne disease spreading microorganisms.

Summary of the Invention It is therefore an objective of the present invention to sterilize toilet seats and toilets generally.

It is a further objective of the present invention to provide a toilet seat sterilization apparatus that can be commonly available and easy to use.

It is a further objective of the present invention to provide a sterilization apparatus using ultraviolet radiation as a means of sterilization.

It is a further objective of the present invention to combine ultraviolet sterilization and ozone sterilization together to completely sterilize toilets and toilet seats.

It is a further objective of the present invention to provide a sterilization device for sterilizing toilet seats safely and without exposing a user to ultraviolet sterilization radiation.

It is a further objective of a present invention to provide a toilet and toilet seat sterilization unit that operates on normal wall current or battery power.

These and other objects of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art by review of the specification that follows.

The present invention is a convenience, compact, and easy to use toilet and toilet seat sterilization unit. The present invention comprises generally an ultraviolet light source particularly in the 200 to 300 nm wavelength range. This range has long been known for its germicidal and sterilization effects achieved by direct radiation. It is also well known that ultraviolet radiation below 200 nm can produce small quantities of ozone from oxygen in the atmosphere. Ozone, in sufficient concentrations is known to have significant germicidal and sterilization effects. Further, ozone, as a gas, is able to reach certain places and crevices in writing implements where ultraviolet radiation might not reach, especially when a number of writing implements are being sterilized together simultaneously.

The ultraviolet light source of the present invention is mounted within a housing or lid such that the ultraviolet radiation can shine directly upon and reflect onto the toilet seat that is covered by the housing. Thus the interior of the housing also can reflect ultraviolet radiation in directions such as to both directly and indirectly reach all parts of the toilet seat to be stylized.

The ultraviolet light source can be mounted in a number of configurations. For example where the toilet seat sterilization apparatus is disposed within the toilet seat lid, the ultraviolet lamp can be a ring type lamp, a tubular ultraviolet lamp source that can be disposed within the housing, a series of ultraviolet lamps that can be disposed around the perimeter of the housing thereby directing radiation inward to the toilet seat and parts of the toilet bowl itself.

The wavelength range of the ultraviolet radiation of the present invention also causes a small amount of ozone to be generated. This ozone is released into the housing and together with the ultraviolet radiation provides a more complete sterilization of the writing implements. A small circulation fan ensures that the ozone is distributed to areas where the UV radiation does not reach.

The present invention comprises the top or lid which is hingedly or removably attached in to the lower toilet seat. This cover or lid prevents ultraviolet radiation from escaping the container, thereby protecting any users or those who pass by the sterilization apparatus.

Integral to the housing and its cover, is an interlocking switch which is biased in the off position. When the housing is placed over the toilet seat, the switch is engaged and the ultraviolet radiation light source is turned on. When the cover is lifted, the ultraviolet radiation is immediately turned off as soon as the cover is removed or the lid is lifted.

A timer circuit for the ultraviolet light source is also part of present invention. The timing circuit is activated as soon as the cover or lid of the sterilization apparatus is closed and the interlocking switch is engaged. The timer allows the ultraviolet light source to remain on for a predetermined amount of time. This time is consistent with complete sterilization of the toilet seat contained within the apparatus of the present invention. When the amount of time has expired, the ultraviolet light source is turned off thereby saving both power as well as prolonging the life of the ultraviolet light source (s). In the event that the cover or lid is lifted, as when the toilet is to be used, the timer is reset and, upon closing of the lid, the sterilization time period begins again.

As integral part of the sterilization, an indicator light is provided whereby, when sterilization is proceeding, the indicator light is lit. When sterilization is not occurring, as in the case when the lid is lifted or the sterilization lamp has burned out, the indicator light is not lit. In this case it will be clear to the user that either maintenance on the device must occur or the lid is not properly engaged with the interlocking switch.

The present invention can operate both on normal current found in homes, businesses, and buildings of all types as well as on battery power. Where battery power is used it is anticipated that rechargeable batteries will be present in the present invention such that sterilization can continue to take place for some period of time even during power failures.

Brief Description of the Drawings The present invention is now described by way of example with references to the accompanying drawings : Figure 1 shows a block diagram of the present invention Figure 2 is a simple schematic of the circuitry of the present invention Referring to Figure 1 a generalized embodiment of the present invention installed on a toilet 5 is illustrated. The sterilization apparatus of the present invention comprises the top lid 10 hingedly attached to a toilet seat 24 by hinges 32 and 34. Ultraviolet lamps 12 and 14 are attached to the top lid 10. Another pair of ultraviolet lamps to 28 and 30 are located in and attached to the toilet seat itself 24. It should be noted that the number of lamps depicted in Figure 1 is not meant to be limiting. For example in certain embodiments it may be more appropriate to have more than two lamps in the upper lid and the lower container portion.

Further while the lamps are shown as individual tube type lamps, alternative shapes are well within the state-of-the-art including U-shaped lamps, ring-shaped lamps individual bulb-type lamps, and indeed any other lamp that will emit the appropriate ultraviolet radiation necessary for the sterilization.

The sterilization apparatus receives power from the typical wall outlet via a plug or other hard-wired connection 20 which is attached to an interlocking switch 18. This switch is biased in the off position so that when upper lid 10 in the open position all lamps 28,30,12 and 14 are off. Conversely, when the upper lid is closed, switch 18 is closed and power is provided to lamps 28,30,12 and 14. Further when all lamps are lit indicator light 16 is also lit showing anyone viewing the apparatus that ultraviolet radiation is being generated by the lamps contained in the apparatus. It should be noted that the position of indicator lights 16 is entirely arbitrary and can be placed anywhere on the apparatus to provide satisfactory convenient viewing by the user.

As noted earlier, ultraviolet radiation in the 200 nm range generates ozone gas. In sufficient quantities ozone gas can have a germicidal effect. To further enhance circulation of air within the apparatus a small circulation fan 36 is provided. This fan is actuated when the interlocking switch 18 is actuated thereby providing power to the apparatus.

As part of the preferred embodiment, a timer circuit 22 is also provided. This timer circuit activates the ultraviolet sterilization lamps 12,14,28, and 30 as well as the recirculating fan 36 for a specific period of time. This period of time can be preset based upon the optimum time necessary to achieve sterilization. In the event that the upper lid 10 is not opened within the time period established in the timer circuit 22 the sterilization lamps will go off after the passage of the optimum sterilization time. In event that the upper lid 10 is opened before the time for sterilization has expired, the timer 22 is reset and, when the upper lid 10 is closed, the sterilization period begins again. In this fashion power to sterilization lamps 12,14,28, and 30 is turned off after the appropriate sterilization period thereby saving lamp life and prolonging useful life of the ultraviolet sterilization lamps.

Referring to Figure 2 a simplified circuit diagram of the present invention is shown.

Power from conventional household power 100 is provided to the sterilization unit. Power is provided directly to the interlocking switch 102 so that when the upper lids of the various embodiments are closed, power is provided to the entire device. A battery 103 is also provided such that power from the wall outlet also recharges the battery 103. Power then flows to the timer circuit 104 which is preset to an optimum sterilization time. When switch 102 is actuated and timer 104 begins, power is applied to the sterilization lamp (s) 106. As noted earlier it is anticipated that numerous configurations of sterilization lamps in size, physical shape, and number are anticipated as within the scope of the present invention.

Whenever the sterilization lamp (s) 106 is lit indicator lamp 108 is also lit thereby noting to users that ultraviolet radiation is being produced. If sterilization lamp (s) 106 is not lit either because the lamp has burned out or switch 102 is in the open position, indicator light 108 is not lit. When the power is again provided to the sterilization lamp (s) 106, indicator light 108 is also lit.

In addition, whenever power is applied to sterilization lamp (s) 106 a small circulation fan 110 is also actuated thereby circulating any ozone gas that is produced by the UV lamps of the present invention. This gas circulates in and around the writing implements that are being sterilized.

A method and apparatus for sterilization of toilet seats has been shown Common to all of the embodiments are the sterilization lamps, means for providing that ultraviolet radiation can reach the various parts of a toilet seat, circulation means to circulate in any ozone produced by the ultraviolet lamps, and power and timing circuits to provide timed sterilization a toilet seat embodying the parts described herein.

It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that other embodiments may be possible employing the common elements of the present invention that has been disclosed.