16 February 2021

Government green light for UK antiviral coating study

DASA, part of the UK Ministry of Defence, commission Northumbria University to develop coating.

© Unsplash/Elena Mozhvilo

Academics at Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK, have been backed by the Government’s Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) to develop an antiviral coating suitable for use on everyday surfaces.

In partnership with Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), academics from the University’s Department of Applied Sciences are working to create a superhydrophobic – low friction – coating that enables surfaces to be functionalised in a way that destroys viruses while maintaining robust and easy-to-clean properties.

While antiviral coatings are not a new concept, existing approaches can release undesirable chemical compounds into the environment, are not long lasting or are difficult to clean and maintain. This novel coating aims to provide a solution to the drawbacks of current formulas.

Funding from DASA will enable the research team to explore wide-ranging applications, to understand whether the coating is universally robust on an array of surfaces and materials.

It is hoped that in the future it could be used on high-contact surfaces such as handrails on public transport, hospital trolleys or shop till-points, as well as domestically – on door handles or bathroom taps, for example.

Dr Matt Unthank, project lead and Associate Professor in Polymer Chemistry at Northumbria University explains the goals of the project. ‘It’s not just about destroying viruses in the laboratory,’ he says. ‘New coating systems and surface treatments need to be robust, easy to clean, universal in their application, safe and low cost. Our research seeks to explore these interdependencies and to develop new antiviral coating systems for the current and future pandemics.’

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