Coating to protect surfaces from virus

Ryan Young/Virginia Tech

The spread of the Covid-19 pandemic globally has brought the attention on doorknobs, light switches, shopping carts and other common touching surfaces as a medium for the rapid spread of the virus.

William Ducker, a Virginia Tech chemical engineering professor, has developed a surface coating that, when painted on common objects, inactivates SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

“The idea is when the droplets land on a solid object, the virus within the droplets will be inactivated,” Ducker said. 

Since mid-April 2020, Ducker has been working with Leo Poon, a professor and researcher at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, to test the film’s success at inactivating the virus.

Their research was published in the July issue of the ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, a scientific journal for chemists, engineers, biologists, and physicists.

The results of the tests have been outstanding, Ducker said. When the coating is painted on glass or stainless steel, the amount of virus is reduced by 99.9% in one hour, compared to the uncoated sample. 

Results have shown that the coating is robust. It does not peel off even after being slashed with a razor blade. It also retains its ability to inactivate the virus after multiple rounds of being exposed to it, subsequent disinfection, or after being submerged in water for a week.

If the project’s success continues, it is a significant discovery in fighting the    virus’ spread.

Already, Ducker’s research was focused on making films that kill bacteria. As the Covid-19 virus began to spread to the United States a few months ago, Ducker started looking at making a coating that can eradicate a virus, rather than bacteria.

Virginia Tech granted essential personnel status to Ducker and his two Ph.D. chemical engineering students so that they could enter campus labs to make the film and test its properties.

For Poon’s tests, Ducker and the students spread three different kinds of coatings on glass and stainless steel. Then, they shipped the samples to Poon.

However, the film does not replace other safety measures that people should take to stop the spread of the coronavirus: hand washing, physical distancing and wearing a mask!

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