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Symposium F.GI01: Special Symposium on Materials Approaches for Tackling COVID-19

Chris Miller, Louisiana Tech University

Towards the Design of a Novel Antimicrobial/Antiviral Filtration System

Written by Jessalyn Low Hui Ying

With statistics showing a high number of healthcare providers managing patients diagnosed with COVID-19, it is essential that the providers wear masks that deliver optimal protection. Current N95 masks, however, have limitations. For example, they are incapable of inactivating the virus, and they can stop particles at 300 nm while the SARS-CoV-2 virus is much smaller on a scale of 60-140 nm. To achieve a mask of optimal protection, Chris Miller and his research team developed a biomorph protective respirator with an antimicrobial filter.

Here, the antimicrobial filter is primarily made of native halloysites nanotubes (HNTs), which is then metalized with various metal nanoparticles like silver and zinc to form metal-coated HNTs (mHNTs). These metals are key to providing antiviral and antimicrobial properties. HNTs were used as they can be metalized only with water and electricity, making it a cost-effective option. Drugs could also be loaded for enhancing antimicrobial properties. These mHNTs are then blow spun into nanofibers, and then sandwiched between polyester rayon sheets for protection to form the filter. This filter serves to prevent any pathogenic entry and also allows pathogen inactivation. Characterization using energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS) showed an even distribution of mHNTs throughout the filter. Additionally, cell studies showed that mHNTs are safe for humans, yet deadly for pathogens.

Besides possessing anti-microbial properties, the respirator was also designed to achieve active protection at 50 nm, sanitization capabilities, durability, custom-fitting and comfort.

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