Development of the graphene mask that makes viruses and bacteria inactive thanks to the sun

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Elia Tabuenca García
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A research team has developed a special graphene mask capable of inactivating bacteria and viruses

For months now, the mask has become our companion, all over the world using it is a must if social distancing cannot be respected. But it is currently neither antibacterial nor antiviral. In other words, bacteria and viruses still remain on the outer surface. Now a new study has developed a special graphene mask capable of inactivating bacteria. But not only. It becomes even more "powerful" if it receives sunlight for even a few minutes.

The innovative solution comes from the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) where a group of researchers has devised a new, fast and inexpensive method to make antibacterial masks in graphene. At the head of the research, Dr. Ye Ruquan, professor of the Department of Chemistry. Such devices also have the potential to fight viruses as well.

Commonly used surgical masks are not antibacterial and therefore harmful microorganisms can remain active for hours and this increases the risk of secondary infection.

Taking advantage of the antibacterial properties of graphene, scientists have investigated the possibility of making masks with this versatile material, called LIG, through a laser technique that makes manufacturing quick and easy. Preliminary studies are already underway.

“Our laser-induced material can kill almost all E. coli bacteria and aerosols. The killing activity of bacteria is induced by graphene-bacteria interactions, ”explained Dr. Ye.

According to the scientist, under the photothermal effect of the sun, it was possible to kill the bacteria with an efficiency of 99,998% within 10 minutes.

But what does the coronavirus have to do with it since we are talking about bacteria? The team recently began testing the material's ability to fight viruses and have seen very promising results. Initial tests on two coronaviruses found that the material from which the special mask was made inactivated over 90% of the viruses in five minutes and all in 10 minutes.

Another advantage is that, for the production of graphene masks, recycled materials such as cellulose or paper can be used since, according to the authors of the research, most carbon-containing materials, such as cellulose or paper, can be converted into graphene.

“We can also use biomass or biomaterials. It's an ecological technique, ”Dr. Ye pointed out.

And the price should not be high but "between that of a surgical mask and an N95," continues Ye.

At the moment, the prototype of this special mask has been made and scientists hope to bring it to market after conducting the certified tests.

One more tool to prevent coronavirus infection.

Sources of reference: City University of Hong Kong

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