Coronavirus pandemic: Good move! Researchers developing rapid-acting longer-lasting surface disinfectant

The team was recently given a grant of over $250,000 by the National Science Foundation. (Representative image: IE/Deepak Joshi)

Coronavirus: Researchers from University of Central Florida are working on development of rapid surface disinfectant! A project, involving Kismet Technologies and researchers from University of Central Florida (UCF), is aimed at the development of a new disinfectant that acts rapidly and lasts longer than the ones currently in use. In a statement, the university said that the current disinfectants take several minutes to completely sanitise the surfaces and rid them of viruses like the novel coronavirus. This is particularly worrisome for high-contact surfaces like bannisters, door handles and elevators. With this in mind, the university has decided to co-develop a new disinfectant.

It said that they were coming up with a disinfectant spray that would kill viruses instantly without the use of harsh chemicals.

The project is being led by the owner and materials science engineer of Orlando-based company Kismet Technologies, Christina Drake, and includes Professor Sudipta Seal and Professor Griffith Parks of UCF. The statement added that the team was recently given a grant of over $250,000 by the National Science Foundation to advance the project.

The statement quoted Drake as saying that the spray and wipe-based disinfectants needed the surface to remain wet for some minutes effectively kill 99.9% viruses as well as germs. However, the team’s disinfectant would disinfect the surface faster and it would leave behind a temporary film that would continually disinfect the surface after application.

She added that this film would neither be sticky nor obvious once it is applied to the surface, since it contains nanoscale-sized disinfecting particles. The nanoparticles are regenerative in nature, which is why it has been planned to continuously sanitise.

She said that she got the idea when she was shopping during the early days of the pandemic and she noticed an employee spraying the disinfectant and then immediately wiping it to dry, thereby rendering the disinfectant ineffective. She thus realised the limitations of the disinfectants since leaving the surfaces wet in high-contact areas was not possible and otherwise they would not be effective.

After that, Drake reached out to Seal from UCF, who was her doctoral adviser during her graduate studies in UCF. Meanwhile, Parks was already working with Seal on another project and decided to join the team to bring his expertise in virology to the table.

Their disinfectant uses cerium oxide nanoparticles and they have been developed by Seal. The statement said that prior research indicated that this solution could be lethal for viruses like the novel coronavirus, which has caused a global pandemic.

Cerium oxide nanoparticles have previously shown to have therapeutic properties, as they can heal diabetic wounds, reduce harm caused by radiation, work as an antibiotic and even help in killing cancer cells. They also have the ability to become powerful antioxidants in healthy human cells, and can also generate hydroxyl radicals that defend against pathogens.

Seal said, according to the statement, that they had been using these nanoparticles for various purposes and then decided to create a separate formulation to deactivate the virus in a similar manner using its redox ability.

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