16:09 PM

CMI Funded Research Creates Reusable PPE That Can Repel Coronaviruses

Originally published on August 12, 2021

University of Pittsburgh researchers and recipients of CMI funding, Dr. Paul Leu, Dr. Robert Shanks, and Eric Romanowski, have developed a nanomaterial coating for fabric PPE (personal protective equipment) that can both repel viruses such as adenoviruses, coronaviruses, and herpes simplex and withstand up to 250 conventional wash cycles.

Viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, need moisture to survive. Humans constantly exhale air filled with vapor, which makes airborne virus transmission quite easy. To make matters worse, viruses can survive on materials for days after landing, which means that those working in hospitals must regularly dispose or launder their PPE. This can become quite costly for hospitals amidst a pandemic. Furthermore, demand for replacement PPE can quickly outpace supply leading to shortages.

The researchers wanted to find a suitable material that would prevent moisture from embedding in PPE (and therefore prevent viruses from adhering) and would hold up after numerous cleanings. The material chosen was a new graphene oxide, a nanomaterial derived from low-cost coal that can be easily applied to PPE.

To test the material’s abilities, Dr. Leu’s team introduced three different viruses to PPE coated with the graphene and took some baseline measurements of the virus populations. They then subjected the coated PPE to scrubbing or ultrasonic bleach washing cycles and measured the virus populations again after each round. The coated PPE maintained both water and virus repellent capabilities after 250 scrubbings or 33 ultrasonic bleach washings.

The team believes their results are promising and the low cost of sourcing graphene will make their solution all the more attractive to PPE manufacturers.

Researcher contacts:

Dr. Paul Leu: pleau@pitt.edu

Dr. Robert Shanks: shanksrm@upmc.edu

Eric Romanowski: egr1@pitt.edu