The EPSRC-funded research will develop new antiviral sprays, films, and other products that can be deployed via additives in existing commercial products, such as detergents, or integrated with current packaging processes, forming an invisible and long-lasting film of sub-micron thickness. Unlike existing disinfectants, the formulations will be designed to capture the aerosol droplets and inactivate the virus.
The research is being carried out over the next 18 months in partnership with Cambridge University and industrial partners Dupont Teijin Film (DTF), Innospec, and FiberLean.
According to Birmingham University, a key focus during the first phase will be to better understand the underpinning antiviral mechanism because different surfaces can affect the ability of the COVID-19 virus to survive.
The virus can remain active for several days on smooth surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel, but for only a few hours on newspaper. Surface characteristics such as porosity, rigidity, and roughness all affect the virus’s viability, and the team aim to draw on their expertise in soft matter, surface chemistry, formulation engineering, and microbiology together with the product development capabilities offered by the industrial partners.
In a statement, project lead, Dr Zhenyu Jason Zhang from Birmingham University’s School of Chemical Engineering, said: “Scientific work so far suggests that COVID-19 is transmitted via aerosol droplets that not only carry but very likely protect the virus. The products we are developing will disrupt such protective environment, leaving the virus exposed and unable to survive once the aerosol droplets land on a communal surface such as handrail, table top.”