SARS-CoV-2 has shown a significant survival rate on different surfaces, including cardboard, stainless steel and plastic – in some cases lasting on surfaces for up to 17 days, according to the CDC. COVID-19 is not only transmitted through human-human transfer but also through surface contact. The leading measure currently used for disinfecting surfaces is spraying a solution of sodium hypochlorite, or household bleach. Unfortunately, bleach breaks down rapidly under sun/UV light, and its stability is very poor, so it evaporates within a few minutes. Even frequent disinfection with bleach cannot guarantee a surface is free of the virus that causes COVID-19.
This project will develop disinfectant polymer materials that can make surfaces with strong antiviral properties. Unlike small molecules, polymers are highly stable macromolecules that do not break down, and they can be designed to have long-lasting disinfecting qualities. Compared to other inorganic bleaches, antiviral polymers are durable, not corrosive, and do not decompose in water to form toxic compounds. The project team plans rapid development of novel, effective, superior and stable disinfecting antiviral polymers that prevent the spread of viruses. The disinfectant materials will be prepared in a straightforward simple reaction, using cheap, commercially available materials so that the polymers can be mass-produced.
The antiviral polymers that this project will develop can be used in hospitals, schools, transportation systems, homes – on any surface where there is a risk of traces of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Along with protective equipment such as masks, these materials can become an essential part of the means for defending against the spread of COVID-19, providing a form of protection during the current pandemic and preparation for the next one.