A major challenge in neutralizing COVID-19 and other airborne viruses involve absorption and inactivation, according to Vikram Gopal, PhD, Chief Technology Officer at Ascend Performance Materials. “Respiratory viral illnesses, such as COVID-19 and the flu, are transmitted through droplets and aerosols. Polypropylene, the material in commonly used disposable masks, is a hydrophobic plastic and does not absorb moisture. Instead, the viruses can sit on the surface of the mask, posing a transmission risk when the mask is handled,” said Gopal. While cotton masks effectively absorb moisture, they don’t inactivate the virus and, again, pose a transmission risk, Gopal added. A nylon fabric embedded with zinc ions, however, has been shown to inactivate 99% of viruses that cause COVID-19 and the common flu.
An international team of scientists and engineers from the University of Cambridge, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, ResInnova Labs, and Ascend Performance Materials demonstrated that a fabric made of nylon 6,6 embedded with active zinc ions absorbed virus-containing moisture droplets and effectively inactivated the particles. The fabric produced a 2-log, or 99%, reduction of virus particles in one hour. The research is described in a paper published in ACS Applied Materials Interfaces.
The research team also was able to demonstrate that nylon with active zinc ions remains stable over time, keeping its virus-inactivating properties after 50 washes.
“The study shows how nylon textile fabric with zinc outperforms the widely used cotton and polypropylene materials at virus absorption and inactivation,” said Gopal, who co-authored the paper. The findings have significant implications for future development of PPE, Gopal added. “Pathogen-free PPE does more than just cut down the risk of transmitting the virus. By making PPE washable and reusable, you reduce the need for single-use products, keeping hundreds of millions of masks out of landfills,” he added.
Acteev technology, developed by Ascend Performance Materials, embeds active zinc ions in a polymer matrix. Acteev Protect fabrics, filtration media, and engineered plastics deliver breakthrough protection for face masks, apparel, upholstery, air filters, high-touch surfaces, and more, added Ascend.