These days, everyone thinks twice before touching a doorknob or a shopping cart
The virus that causes COVID-19 can live on many surface materials – plastic, stainless steel, aluminum and other metals, wood, glass – for as long as three days.
That’s why the Green-SEAM (Surface Engineering for Advanced Manufacturing) Network based at Concordia is stepping up to promote antiviral metallic and ceramic coatings as a way to slow the transmission of the virus.
“Copper and titanium oxide, we know, are active in killing bacteria and viruses, so they are effective materials to spray on surfaces to fight the spread of COVID-19,” notes Christian Moreau, director of Green-SEAM and Canada Research Chair in Surface Engineering.
“We have a unique network of experts in surface engineering from 11 universities across Canada, 14 industrial companies and government laboratories including the National Research Council who specialize in coating materials.”
Consider copper and titanium oxide
Moreau and his Green-SEAM colleagues see how their resources can be applied to the pandemic.
“Any public space with high volumes of people circulating – like hospitals, industrial kitchens, nursing homes, public transport – is vulnerable to contaminated surfaces,” says Moreau, who is also director of the Concordia’s Thermal Spray and Surface Engineering Research Centre at the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science.
“We want to do everything in our power to connect frontline workers with industrial coating companies and research laboratories who have solutions – be they short-term or long-term solutions. We have partners who can accommodate large-scale production, as well as custom surfaces applications, from hand rails and door handles to countertops or much larger surfaces exposed to germs.”
Established three years ago as a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Strategic Network, Green-SEAM is on a mission to integrate Canada’s surface engineering leaders into a cohesive community. Members are researching, developing and deploying sustainable, innovative and globally competitive surface engineering solutions.
And the pandemic, above all else, has brought the collaborative expertise of the network into focus.
“Imagine all the food trays in a nursing home or the arm rests on emergency room chairs,” says Simon Durham, Green-SEAM network manager. “Our partners are in a position to take advantage of network technologies and can be made ready to make these kinds of surfaces less likely to spread contaminants.”
A Canada-wide network
Recent work at the University of Toronto by professor and Green-SEAM member Javad Mosthaghimi has demonstrated the benefit of the copper coatings on hospital waiting-room chair armrests.
The Green-SEAM network supports key Canadian economic sectors that generate high-value jobs and are export intensive, including advanced manufacturing in aerospace, natural resource industries and renewable energy.
While healthcare isn’t one of their primary fields, Green-SEAM has pivoted to apply its technological expertise in that direction to identify coating opportunities in hospitals and clinics.
“We’re pioneering the development of technologies that ensure environmentally responsible practices and solutions by the entire Canadian coating and surface engineering community – a community that can contribute its skillset to help flatten the curve,” Moreau adds.
“Our principle focus is on student researchers supervised by university, industry and government experts to prepare the next generation of surface engineers and scientists to incorporate ‘green thinking’ throughout their careers.”
For the past five years, experts at the Gina Cody School have been tailoring the nano-sized structure of titanium oxide coatings to optimize their photocatalytic and filtration properties that can now be deployed for their antibacterial and antiviral capabilities.
“We’re well positioned to play a contributory role this pandemic,” Moreau concludes. “We’re currently developing projects for the NSERC Alliance COVID-19 program to look at innovative surface engineering solutions to fight this coronavirus.”