A bioactive coating developed by a Quebec-Brazilian team would allow surgical masks to not only block viruses, but also destroy them.
The researchers tested three different layers, including one that destroyed almost all viruses deposited on the mask’s surface in less than a minute.
“We are depositing a very thin layer of a few tens of layers of atoms,” Professor Diego Montovani, who directs the Laboratory of Biomaterials and Bioengineering at Université Laval, explained to La Presse Canadienne. We change the way matter interacts with the environment. »
Currently, surgical masks act as a barrier that traps most bacteria and viruses, but not all, he said.
In addition, some viruses, such as COVID-19, can survive for several hours on the surface of the mask. Coughing, talking, sneezing, or a runny nose can also reduce the filtering ability of masks, hence the importance of replacing them after a few hours.
So the Quebec-Brazilian research team tested three molecules known to have bioactive properties in the laboratory. These molecules were linked, using plasma technology, to samples of surgical mask fabrics contaminated with the Coronavirus.
The researchers tested a layer of polyethylenimine (PEI), a polymer found specifically in detergents. A layer of Prince Edward Island and lauric acid, a fatty acid found in coconuts; Prince Edward Island paint and copper sulphate.
The abundance of viruses accumulated on the first two layers had dissolved by 99% after two hours. But in the case of the third layer, 99.99% of the viruses were destroyed after less than a minute, possibly because the copper penetrated the virus membrane and allowed PEI to get inside.
The bioactive layer has been added to the outer surface of the masks to intercept viruses at the time of inspiration. Professor Montovani said it could also theoretically be added to the inner surface of the mask, to prevent the wearer from contaminating their environment, but further testing would be needed before this could be achieved.
“Since they are natural materials, they probably won’t have a very long life, and we won’t be able to use the mask for several days,” he said. But for a reaction that lasts a few hours, I think it’s a product to consider. »
The researcher believes that such masks could be particularly useful in environments where the risk of contamination is high, such as in a hospital emergency room, during a concert in a crowded amphitheater or on the occasion of a plane flight.
In large-scale production, adding coating would only increase the cost of each mask by about ten cents, the researchers estimate.
The results of this study were published by the journal Applied surface sciences.
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