New self-sterilising plastic in development

09 September 2022

A team of researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have developed a new plastic film to curb the spread of viruses.

Surface disinfection across healthcare is paramount to ensure the safety of both the staff and patient. The main clinical issue is respiratory borne viruses spread by coughing, sneezing, or talking which produces small water droplets which can travel meters away and be inhaled. When these droplets fall on surfaces this can “facilitate the subsequent transmission of these and other infectious virus particles, usually via hand to face contact.” One such virus is SARS-CoV-2 which research has shown can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours.

To curb surface transmission, the team sought to develop a coating which would actively sterilise viruses. Plastic films were created using low density polyethylene (LDPE) powder and P25 TiO2 nanoparticles and then ‘activated’ with UV radiation.

By reacting with the genetic material of the virus to disrupt it’s proteins and the surrounding thin, fatty shell the plastic kills the virus.

During testing, the film was tested against four types of viruses, (two influenzas, covid, and a picornavirus) to determine it’s viability. The film successfully sterilized all four viruses.

In the report’s conclusion the researcher’s expressed their hopes that “the thin, plastic, self-sterilising photocatalytic film reported here has potential as a new commercial photocatalytic product.” The team are currently investigating several commercial avenues in which the material could be used including aprons, tablecloths, and curtains.

The research team has also mentioned it’s plans to attempt using plasma treatments or UVC to active and improve the film in the future.

Read the full study here: