Healthcare workers need personal protective equipment (PPE) in order to stay safe on the job – now more than ever. Unfortunately, the materials used to make these in-demand items may actually be absorbing and carrying the virus that doctors, nurses, and patients are trying to avoid. Now that COVID-19 has taken off and there is a short supply of PPE, there is a new mission to find better protection that is also reusable. But one team of researchers believes they have found a new material treatment for safer PPE.
Material Treatment for Safer PPE
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh believe they have found a potential solution to the PPE demand. At their LAMP Lab, the researchers have created a “textile coating that can not only repel liquids like blood and saliva but can also prevent viruses from adhering to the surface.” The team at Pitt is eager to be the first to achieve a higher level of safety among PPE for hospitals across the nation. Ph.D. student Anthony Galante says, “we want to push the boundary on what is possible with these types of surfaces, and especially given the current pandemic, we knew it’d be important to test against viruses.”
The LAMP Lab is confident their new material wards off blood, bacteria, and viruses due to its ability to withstand excessive washing, scrubbing, and scraping. The current PPE materials become reduced in their repelling abilities after multiple washes and scrubbing. With the PPE shortage brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the Pitt team would like to release products that are reusable while continuing to keep staffers safe. The material treatment was declared effective after running through multiple ultrasonic washes, strong scrubbing pads, and being scraped with a razor blade, and coming out just as durable as before. The coating the team is applying to their materials is made up of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) nanoparticles, which are stable and not toxic at temperatures lower than 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The researchers then tested the coating against the human adenovirus types 4 and 7. These were repelled in much the same way as proteins with nucleic acids inside, just as they’d hoped.
Material Treatment for Safer PPE…and More!
The newfound coating can be used on hospital equipment other than protective gear for staffers. It will also be beneficial for fabrics used to make waiting room chairs, as that is a breeding ground for many germs brought into the facility. Soon researchers intend to begin testing the coating against betacoronaviruses, such as the one that caused the COVID-19 pandemic. If the coating works the way it is intended, this will be a major breakthrough for PPE in medical facilities and, eventually, for the general public with clothes and furniture they buy and use daily. Currently, the coating is “applied using drop-casting, a method that saturates the material with a solution from a syringe and applies a heat treatment to increase stability.” However, researchers believe it can be used as a spray and then eventually move up to being mass-produced on various products.
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