Researchers develop 3D-printable material with anti-Covid-19 properties

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The copper-silver-tungsten material achieves 100 per cent Covid-19 inactivation within five hours. (Image: University of Wolverhampton)

Researchers have developed a 3D-printable, antiviral material made from copper, silver and tungsten that kills the Covid-19 virus.

The novel material, which could be used in filtration systems and face mask filters, achieves 100 per cent viral inactivation within five hours against a biologically-safe sample of Covid-19.

The project was led by the University of Wolverhampton’s Additive Manufacturing Functional Materials research group, in collaboration with the Ángel Serrano-Aroca’s group from the Catholic University of Valencia’s Biomaterials and Bioengineering Lab.

To develop the material, the researchers combined three elements known for their antimicrobial properties: Silver, which while having antimicrobial properties has a relatively high cost, leading to challenges for large-scale implementation, especially for single-use products; Copper, which has a relatively lower cost than silver and has also been shown to achieve 99.2 per cent Covid-19 viral inactivation in five hours; and tungsten, which emerging research has also shown to have antimicrobial effects against common pathogens such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.

Using selective laser melting the researchers can now combine the three elements to create touch surfaces and filter geometries that demonstrate superior anti-Covid-19 properties.

‘Our antiviral material displayed a 100 per cent viral inactivation within five hours against a biologically-safe sample of Covid-19,’ said John Robinson, a PhD researcher from the University of Wolverhampton. ‘This is a significant improvement on the previous copper coating results as all of the Covid-19 virus is eliminated. As such the copper-tungsten-silver material developed in this study could be utilised to reduce both surface contamination and the airborne spread of the Covid-19 virus.’

The researchers envision the material being used in the development of filtration systems and face mask filters. They have even developed proof of concept mask filters for an open-source 3D printed face mask.

Such tools could be particularly important in controlling the transmission of the virus to limit any unknown long-term effects it may cause. In addition, as the pandemic continues to evolve, various situations are likely to appear unpredictably. Being able to 3D print antiviral surfaces rapidly when and where they are needed could be a valuable resource.

‘With new variants emerging, and a concern that a vaccine evasive strain may evolve, there is further emphasis on the requirement for enhanced transmission control and prevention,’ Robinson added. ‘The requirement for long life masks and mask filters that can be disinfected is essential.’

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