A team of researchers at the University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL) is working to create a protective coating for masks that, when activated by UV light, would catch the COVID-19 virus and kill it within seconds.
For the coating, Sudipta Seal, an engineer specializing in material science and nanotechnology, will create nanostructures that can capture the virus and then trigger a chemical reaction using UV light to destroy it. Seal is collaborating with Griffith Parks, a virologist who leads research efforts at UCF’s College of Medicine, on the work—they say that if successful, the coating could be added to masks, gloves, and gowns to keep healthcare providers safer as they battle COVID-19.
After Seal creates the materials, Parks will put them through a battery of tests to see which materials kill specific viruses and how fast. While one material might kill all viruses, Parks expects that some materials will work better on particular types of viruses—a finding that would allow them to tailor the materials in the future for a specific outbreak by a specific virus type. If Seal and Parks are successful, they hope to develop materials that can also kill disease-causing organisms such as bacteria.
Because Parks’ lab is not Biohazard Safety 3-certified, he cannot test using the actual COVID-19 virus, which requires high-containment facilities. If a material Seal develops proves effective at killing viruses in the coronavirus family, the UCF scientists will send it to a certified outside lab. From there, it would go through necessary testing before getting approval to be used in the field.
It could be months, but the approach could prove useful for other potential pandemics as well as the varied viruses and bacteria that healthcare providers face in caring for their patients.