Based on WHO modelling at the beginning of March 2020, an estimated 89 million medical masks are required for the COVID-19 response each month. Such requirements cannot often be met by mask production capabilities of the single countries, and they also pose critical questions in terms of waste disposal of potentially contaminated materials. Inspired by our recent discoveries on nanomaterials with broad spectrum antiviral activity, we aim at translating the antiviral properties proved for nanoparticles to the fibres composing facial masks. This could help all countries which cannot cope with the current required production while also improving users safety and easing the waste management at the end of the life cycle.

What it does

The nanoparticles bind to the virus surface and damages the capsid. Such mechanism by which the nanoparticle binds and deactivate the virus is a general properties of their surfaces. Therefore ,by applying the surface chemistry of the nanoparticles to those of fibres composing the mask, it is possible to extend the antiviral activity to commonly used masks by a simple repurposing step. Additionally, the humidity which usually makes the mask useless, in a antiviral-coated masks provides the optimal conditions for an effective interaction with the virus. As the virus is no longer infective, the coating also reduces the risk of contamination and infection upon removal of the mask by the user. This can be applied on every type of mask.

How we built it

Although, mask composition and design can vary greatly from mask to mask (e.g. surgical masks to FFP2 and FFP3) all of them have in common the use of non-vowel cotton layer. Cotton is composed of cellulose, a OH rich polysaccharides, perfect anchoring sites for chemical modification steps. By using silanes with a molecular design analogues to those the surface of nanoparticles, we can easily modify the mask fibre surface by a simple silanisation reaction. This is done by immersed the masks into a modified-silane containing solution. The solution attaches to the material. The mask will be dried by a mild thermal treatment. The molecules of the coating will results covalently bound to the fibres, hence posing no risk to inhale them. Additional the active molecules anchored on the fibers surface are so small that they will not affect the mask performance in terms of breathing resistance.

Challenges we ran into


Accomplishments that we're proud of

The nanoparticles are not only binding the virus but irreversibly destroy the virus.First test showed that it works with SARS-CoV-2.

What we learned

That antivirals for a broad spectrum is possible and can be complementary to vaccines.

What's next for Virusdeath

Synthesising the active molecule on larger scale and optimising the deposition protocol to make it easy to be performed by non-professional so that repurposing can be done on demand by users. Final tests on particle leakage, skin irritation, and long-term protection..

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