05 Dec, 2020
JERUSALEM WEATHER

People around the world were aghast when President Donald Trump suggested drinking or injecting bleach to “kill the Corona virus,” but, after seeing the shocked reactions, he said he was only joking.

The leading method currently used for disinfecting surfaces is spraying a solution of sodium hypochlorite – or household bleach. Unfortunately, this chemical breaks down rapidly under sun and ultraviolet light, and it is very unstable. As a result, it evaporates within a few minutes. Even frequent disinfection with bleach cannot guarantee a surface is free of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The virus has shown a significant survival rate on different surfaces, including cardboard, stainless steel and plastic – in some cases lasting on surfaces for up to 17 days, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. It can be transmitted not only by human to human transfer but also through surface contact. 

As a result of this problem, researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa launched a project for the development of disinfectant polymer materials that can protect surfaces with strong antiviral properties. Unlike small molecules, polymers are highly stable macromolecules that don’t disintegrate, and they can be designed to have long-lasting disinfecting qualities. 

Compared to other inorganic bleaches, antiviral polymers are durable, not corrosive, and they do not decompose in water to form toxic compounds. The project team are working on the rapid development of novel, effective, superior and stable disinfecting antiviral polymers that prevent the spread of viruses. The disinfectant materials will be prepared in a straightforward, simple reaction, using cheap, commercially available materials so that the polymers can be mass-produced.

The antiviral polymers can be used in hospitals, schools, transportation systems, homes – on any surface where there is a risk of traces of the Corona virus. Along with protective equipment such as masks, these materials can become an essential part of the means for defending against the spread of COVID-19, providing a form of protection during the current pandemic and preparation for the next one, said the developer, Prof. Shady Farah of the Technion’s Wolfson Chemical Engineering Faculty. The Technion expert in nano-biotechnology and nanomedicine  just announced that the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) would support the project to speed up the process of development and product delivery to the market. 

 

The “smart antiseptics” that he has developed damage the mechanism involved in Corona virus infection mechanism and remain active over time. These substances are expected to replace bleach, as well as other chlorine-based agents 

It was the first time that a single researcher at the Technion has won a prestigious EIT Health grant. “My team and I are currently producing and testing potential materials, with the intention of choosing the optimal material and starting mass production in the coming months.”

His research interests include the designing and engineering of novel bioactive functionalized biomaterials and nanoparticles with desired and programmable properties, as well as understanding the correlation between materials structure at the molecular and microstructure level)and properties including function at different environments and conditions so as to design efficient valuable medical and therapeutic materials, delivery systems and medical devices,” he said. 

“I’m particularly interested in, polymers, biodegradable synthetic polymers, which offer several advantages over other materials for numerous uses,” he added

The development of the technology was made possible by combining interdisciplinary knowledge in combinatorial chemistry, polymer engineering and controlled release. There are rules of the game that will curb the contamination cycle, which is a particularly difficult problem in public places such as hospitals, factories, schools, malls, central bus and train stations and public transportation.

 “Our polymers will make them safer spaces. We are dealing today with the COVID-19 pandemic, but the technology can be used in the future against other microorganisms as well. We thus we enrich the arsenal of tools at our disposal and we add a new family of disinfectants that release the active ingredient in a controlled manner so they remain effective over time,” Farah concluded.