Indiana University researchers say they have discovered a fabric that could kill coronaviruses and change the way personal protective equipment is made in the future. Chandan Sen, the director of Indiana University School of Medicine's Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering, and his team found the novel coronavirus uses electrostatic forces to infect. From these findings, they also believe they have developed a fabric that could interrupt the virus's electrokinetic properties.
Sen and his team posted their findings in ChemRxiv, a platform that hosts studies before they are published in peer-reviewed journals, on May 15. The group said they tested an electroceutical fabric made of polyester printed with circular metal dots made of silver and zinc metals, reports Indianapolis Magazine. The metals could send the coronavirus' electrokinetic properties "into a tizzy," which would leave the virus unable to infect in just a minute. Sen's team has already been looking into other uses for the fabric, which is already used for antimicrobial wound dressing, for six years.
The way the fabric works is similar to jamming a radio signal. It can create a weak electric field using just microcell batteries. When exposed to moisture, the electric field would stop the electrostatic forces viruses need to spread. The electric field would not be dangerous to humans, but it would be for virus and bacteria's abilities to infect.
Sen suggests the findings could change PPE in the future. When a health care worker takes off their mask, they are vulnerable to the coronavirus for a short period, and viruses can get on the outside of the mask, and people still spread infections. The face-covering that kills the coronavirus the instant it comes in contact with it would prevent that from happening. The technology Sen tested is already patented by Vomaris Innovations Inc., a medicine company based in Arizona. The FDA cleared the fabric, and Vomaris chairman Paul Foster hopes the first masks can be available soon.
"The time it takes to inactivate the virus can range from one minute to a couple of hours," Sen told WISH-TV last week. "With everything that is going on, I want this to go out because I want other people much smarter than me that can take this principle and actually make it into productive solutions that can help people."
Sen stressed that his data looked at the fabric's impact of the current coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19. There are now over 1.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., reports Johns Hopkins University. As of Sunday afternoon, more than 97,000 deaths have been recorded.