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Scientists turn your face mask into a weapon against viruses

Researchers from SDU Sønderborg have, together with international colleagues, created a ground-breaking concept where nanoparticles with special properties can be integrated into textiles. This means that in future we may experience bandages or face masks, which protect against viruses and bacteria.

By Sune Holst, , 12/17/2021

- A rose is a rose is a rose

This is how it sounds in one of the most quoted poems in literary history, "Sacred Emily" from 1913. But we now have news for the author, the intellectual centre of the classical avant-garde, Gertrude Stein: A rose is not always a rose.

Researchers from SDU Sønderborg have created a "nanorose", wherein the development of a ground-breaking concept they have taken inspiration from the rose branch and its thorns. Why have they done this?

Nanoparticles can neutralise viruses and bacteria

Yes, the researchers have for a long time worked with so-called nano-tetrapods of zinc oxide, which have viral binding abilities and therefore can function as advanced virus protection. And to fight harmful bacteria. Nano-tetrapods of zinc oxide are already found in creams that relieve the herpes variant, HSV-2. However, it is not always advantageous for zinc oxide nanoparticles to enter the bloodstream. Therefore, the researchers investigated whether they could be integrated into textiles. And this is where the "nanorose" comes into the picture.

Unique method

Researchers from SDU Sønderborg, together with international colleagues, have used so-called electrospinning to place zinc oxide nanoparticles on the surface of the nanofibers so that they can instantly interact with viruses or bacteria if they come into contact with them.

- Electrospinning of nanofibers is an exciting technology that enables us to control the production of nanofibers in relation to direction and mechanical properties, says Professor Yogendra Kumar Mishra from NanoSYD at SDU in Sønderborg.

He goes on to say that the team expects nanofibers to be used in the manufacture of antiviral garments, bandages, antiviral coatings, and face masks. And face masks are interesting, especially as are fighting against a ubiquitous world citizen, in the form of Covid-19.

- The fight against the virus has many fronts. One of them is in the laboratories, where science must keep up with the mutations. And here, face masks with anti-viral properties can play a crucial role. We can easily imagine face masks that neutralise the virus particles and thus stop their spread, says the Head of the Mads Clausen Institute, Professor Horst-Günter Rubahn.

Can sterilise itself

The researchers have even devised a sterilisation mechanism. If the fibres are exposed to ultraviolet light, then it triggers a photoelectrochemical reaction that dissolves the virus.

The next step for the international research team from SDU Sønderborg, University of Connecticut, University of Illinois Chicago, Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation and California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA, will be to test and optimise these materials against aerosol virus strains (such as COVID-19) and continue their research on the herpes simplex virus so that textiles with antiviral and antibacterial properties can be used in hospitals and benefit society.

Editing was completed: 17.12.2021