With the Omicron variant making its way into the local community, the Government announced tightening COVID-19 measures to contain the epidemic. The public should stay vigilant to maintain good personal hygiene at all times to strengthen individual defence against the pandemic. At present, some public facilities such as doorknobs in public toilets and lift buttons have poor cleanliness, and can become breeding grounds for viruses and bacteria, thus posing a threat to public health.
An interdisciplinary research team from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has successfully developed the world’s first “anti-virus 3D printing material” (material) that can kill the COVID-19 virus on surfaces as well as most common viruses and bacteria. The main component of the material is resin, added with anti-viral agents such as cationic compounds, to pierce the cell membrane of the virus and destroy its structure to kill the virus and bacteria.
Dr. Kwan Yu Chris LO, Associate Professor of PolyU’s Institute of Textiles and Clothing, who led the research team, said that laboratory tests confirmed the material can kill 70% of the COVID-19 virus and other viruses/bacteria surviving on a surface within two minutes; eliminate over 90% of viruses within 10 minutes; and terminate almost all viruses and bacteria on a surface in 20 minutes. Dr. Lo said, “This material is a resin material with high anti-virus performance. Using 3D printing technology, it can be produced in different forms catering to different needs. It is therefore highly flexible and can be used extensively in public facilities to provide epidemic prevention support to the community.” The team has already applied patent of this technology and application, and will use it for commercial purposes in future.
In the past year, with the support of the laboratory of PolyU’s University Research Facility in 3D Printing (U3DP), the research team has collaborated with the Home Affairs Department, the Hong Kong Wetland Park and an environmental organisation to produce recycling bin handles, toilet doorknob covers, lift buttons, braille boards and more, in order to conduct further tests and trials of the effectiveness and durability of the material in killing viruses. Prof. Chi-wai KAN, a member of the research team and Professor of PolyU’s Institute of Textiles and Clothing said, “Even after use for a year, not only is the handle on the recycling bin still in good condition, no COVID-19 virus, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus are detected on the handle’s surface. This proves that the efficacy rate of the material only diminishes gradually after three years of use, and is effective in fighting against viruses and bacteria. Since the material kills viruses via physical means, it can still exert the same effect on mutant viruses.” Prof. Kan added that because the disinfection components of the material are embedded in the products rather than coated on the surface, daily cleaning with disinfectants such as bleach does not compromise its anti-virus performance.
The research team will also collaborate with the Sham Shui Po District Office to produce doorknob protective covers for over 100 unmanaged “Three-Nil” buildings in the district and install these covers on doors frequently used by residents, so as to reduce the risk of virus transmission in buildings. The team hopes to apply the material to primary and secondary schools, healthcare facilities, and public transportation systems.