Copper coating could improve the effectiveness of masks against covid-19

“Although there was already data on the lifespan of the virus on common contact surfaces like stainless steel, plastics and copper, the lifespan of the virus on technical coatings was less understood,” Kevin Mussleman, lead author of the study, said in a press release.

Based on what previous research had found, the team tested the effectiveness of the antiviral coatings on the lens and fabric of the N95 mask.

The tests involved depositing coatings roughly 1,000 times thinner than a human hair, then immersing the coated glass and fabric in a viral solution or exposing them to smaller droplets of the viral solution. After removing the virus from the coatings, each extract was contacted with healthy cells and measured for its ability to replicate.

The results showed that the other coatings did not have the same antiviral effects as copper or a compound containing copper.

In addition, they found that in some cases thin films of nanoscale copper can detach from the surface and quickly dissolve into virus-containing droplets, thereby enhancing the virucidal effect. This means that there are possibilities to tailor the coating so as to improve its interaction with the viral droplet and the antiviral effect.

In the opinion of lead author Louis Delumeau, adding an antiviral coating containing copper on the outside of the masks or an internal filter could add an additional layer of security.

“Not only would a mask that covers the nose and mouth significantly limit the transmission of the virus, but adding a coating like the one we have developed could actually kill the virus quickly and reduce the amount of virus spread,” said Delumeau.

“The antiviral coating could also be applied to heavily affected public surfaces. “

Following these findings, the Waterloo research group is developing coating techniques for masks and continuing to explore the dissolution process for smaller droplets, as well as to study how to control the adhesion of copper films on various surfaces.


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Sara H. Byrd