Development of self-decontaminating masks and protective clothing against COVID‑19 coronavirus and other biohazards

Dolez, Patricia | $50,000

Alberta University of Alberta 2020 NSERC Alliance COVID-19 Grant

The COVID‑19 pandemic has been a rude reminder of the difficulty in controlling the propagation of viruses. If masks and protective clothing currently used by medical personnel can protect them from being exposed, the contaminated protective equipment can act as a vector for the coronavirus and lead to the contamination of other patients, other medical personnel and personal objects/family members. Self-decontaminating masks and protective clothing could prevent this issue. It is known that N-halamines are a very efficient and fast acting biocide against bacteria and viruses. Materials that contain the N-halamine functionality can easily be grafted on textiles and are efficiently regenerated by treatment with sodium hypochlorite (bleach) once the active group has been consumed by the decontamination process. However, N-halamines are sensitive to light and their applications have generally been limited to undergarments and inner surfaces.

The project aims at developing light-resistant N-halamine treatments for textiles. N-halamines will be combined with metal oxide nanoparticles acting as UV absorbers. In the case of protective clothing and facemask applications, they will be applied as a finish on the fabrics. For respirator application, the light-resistant N-halamine/metal oxide nanoparticle system will be used to functionalize randomly distributed polypropylene nanofiber mats produced by electrospinning so that their self-decontamination function can benefit from the large surface area offered by the nanofibers.

This project combines expertise in textile science, protective equipment, chemistry, electrospinning, and textile manufacturing. It will contribute to avoid cross contamination and limit the propagation of the COVID-19-causing coronavirus from patients to healthcare workers and between patients. On a long-term perspective, it will also allow reducing the rate of hospital-acquired infections, which kill about 8,000 Canadians per year.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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