NCSU researchers identify self-sterilizing polymers effective in killing novel coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Researchers at North Carolina State University have identified a family of polymers that's effective at killing the novel coronavirus including SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The polymers are activated with moisture and could offer another layer of protection for mitigating the transmission of COVID-19 and other diseases.

"So far, we have not encountered any viruses or bacteria that have been able to survive," explained Rich Spontak, a distinguished NCSU professor in both chemical and biomolecular engineering, and a professor of material sciences and engineering. "Which is promising in that as other types of infectious microbes, start to rear their ugly heads, this material, could be available to help mitigate the spread of those types of pathogens."

Spontak co-authored a paper accepted for publication in Advanced Science with Frank Scholle, an associate professor in biological sciences at the university.

Researchers from Boston University also collaborated in the study testing out how the viruses respond to the self-sterilizing polymers. The substance could eventually be used to coat frequently touched surfaces such as handles, rails, tabletops, or windows. It could also be added to personal protection equipment shields or plastic barriers you find at cash registers as another layer of protection from the virus.

Researchers say humidity or even droplets from a sneeze provide the moisture which allows the pH to drop in the polymer creating an acidic level that kills many viruses.

"The material is commercially available right now," Scholle said. "It is produced by a company in Texas, Krayton Corporation. They actually weren't aware of this anti-microbial attribute, we were the ones who discovered that and they're licensing technology from us. And there is a very active effort to get EPA approval so that this can be used ubiquitously out in the consumer market."

NCSU researchers will continue testing how other viruses react to the polymers.

"Ultimately the biggest challenge and this is going to be really interesting to test viruses such as norovirus and related ones," explained Scholle. "These are the viruses that cause those gastrointestinal outbreaks on cruise ships. We're hopeful that it'll work. So far, we've had very much success on this," Scholle added.
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