Innovative plastic film can kill viruses in the presence of light

15 September 2022 | Muriel Cozier

‘This is the first time that anything like this has been developed and we hope that it will be a huge benefit to society.’

A plastic film that can kill viruses coming into contact with it in the presence of light, has been developed by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast.

Publishing their work in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology, the research team describes the scalable production, characterisation and testing of a flexible plastic film, which has a robust and very active photocatalytic coating, able to neutralise a range of viruses including SARS-CoV-2 in the presence of light. The film, which is coated with a thin layer of particles that absorb UV light and produces reactive oxygen species which kills viruses, is also degradable.

The plastic film was produced using low density polyethylene powder, and titanium dioxide nanoparticles. It was tested for antiviral activity using two strains of influenza A, a highly stable picornavirus called EMCV, and SARS-CoV-2. While in the presence of the new film, the viruses were exposed to either UVA radiation or light from a cool white light fluorescent lamp.

SCI News - 15 September 2022 - image of hospital curtains and bed
The self-sterilising film is the first of its kind. Applications include disposable aprons and curtains in hospitals.

The ‘self-sterilising film’ is said to be the first if its kind, and is not expensive to produce, the researcher said. Applications include disposable aprons, tablecloths and curtains in hospitals. The breakthrough could lead to a significant reduction in the transmission of viruses in healthcare environments but also in other settings that use plastics such as food production.

Professor Andrew Mills, School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Queens University Belfast said: ‘This film could replace many of the disposable plastic films used in the healthcare industry as it has the added value of being self-sterilising at no real extra cost. Through rigorous testing we have found that it is effective at killing viruses with just room light – this is the first time that anything like this has been developed and we hope that it will be a huge benefit to society.’

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