BLACKSBURG, Va. – The threat of COVID-19 has some people on edge, afraid to touch anything that might expose them to the coronavirus, such as doorknobs, railings, or light switches. But a new discovery by a Virginia Tech professor could ease those fears and protect people from catching it.
“I got to thinking, ‘Why don’t we make a coating that you could just coat all these objects -- so the one coating that coats all these objects -- that inactivates coronavirus?’” said Professor of Chemical Engineering William Ducker.
Since mid-March, Ducker has been developing the coating, called ‘Safety Coat.‘ Essentially, it’s like a paint that kills SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“When a droplet containing coronavirus strikes that coating, it inactivates 99.9% of the coronavirus in just one hour,” said Ducker.
The active ingredient in Safety Coat is cuprous oxide, which is made with recycled copper and oxygen. Ducker said it’s inexpensive to produce and easy to apply in a two-step process.
“It’s a very simple thing. So you can put polyurethane down and then you add the cuprous oxide layer on top of that,” said Ducker. “It’s basically painted on.”
Ducker based his research on other studies that looked at how long coronavirus lives on surfaces, which found that it lives on copper the least amount of time: 4 hours.
The coating is sturdy. It doesn’t peel off after being cut with a razor and it’s still effective after being exposed to the virus or disinfected multiple times. The coating is also effective after being submerged in water for a week.
Ducker knows that Safety Coat works, but his research team is still trying to figure out exactly how it works.
The coating could be used anywhere, including in hospitals, airlines, cruise ships, schools, casinos, and more.
“I think it could be very widely applied,” said Ducker.
Now, he just needs partners to finance, produce, and widely distribute the coating.
However, Ducker said that this new discovery isn’t the end of the virus and it won’t take the place of the health guidelines that prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Please still wear a mask. Do social distancing. Don’t go into crowded places. I think they’re all essential,” said Ducker. “But this coating, I think, will help and I hope it helps a lot.”