July 23, 2020
UKSRC Researchers Developing Face Masks for Coronavirus
Three UKSRC Investigators have received funding to support the development of face masks that offer protection from coronavirus. Project 3 PI Dr. Dibakar Bhattacharyya and Co-PI Dr. Tom Dziubla, along with colleagues Dr. Yinwan Wei (Biological Chemistry) and Dr. Todd Hastings (Electrical and Computer Engineering), secured support through a Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which has called for immediate proposals that have potential to address the spread of COVID-19. The grant provides $150,000 over one year. This RAPID project will involve the development of functionalized, open structured and highly breathable membranes with attached enzymes and/or antibodies. This will allow for a significant improvement in the efficacy and safety of the diffusion and impact filtration mechanisms and subsequent deactivation parameters for PPE. This innovative RAPID project will result in the development of new materials which incorporate integration of easily adaptable virus cleavage and recognition materials on existing cellulosic and other membrane polymer films which are easily scalable. The overall project will involve enzyme/antibody attachment on surfaces, and material evaluation using synthetic and plasmonic aerosol nanoparticles functionalized with spike glycoprotein found in corona virus. This novel approach includes means for maintaining hydration for enzyme activity. The plasmonic particles will act as “smart” labels to determine both particle location in the material and enzyme-protein interactions. The integrated research on functionalized membranes, virus particle quantification approaches, and novel virus analogs will advance the state of the art in anti-viral barrier materials while deepening fundamental understanding of virus-enzyme-antibody interactions on surfaces.
With funding and support from Kentucky's National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), Project 3 Co-PI Dr. Isabel Escobar is working with a team from UK and Somerset Community College (SCC) to create a 3D-printed, membrane-filtered face masks that can inactivate the coronavirus. The goal, through passive decontamination, is to not only protect people from breathing in viruses, but to eliminate them on contact. Dr. Escobar is working to perfect the central component of the masks — the filter. This filter will contain a unique membrane composed of a polymer dissolved in a nontoxic, bio-derived solvent, which will then be chemically bound to medical-grade silver nanoparticles, known for their antiviral efficiency.