UCF hopes to create mask coating that catches, kills COVID-19

Coronavirus has caused 83,000 deaths worldwide

ORLANDO, Fla. – UCF researchers are working to create a protective coating for masks protecting doctors and nurses that would catch COVID-19 and kill it within seconds.

Sudipta Seal, an engineer specializing in material science and nanotechnology, came up with the idea and is working with Griffith Parks, a virologist who leads research efforts at UCF’s College of Medicine.

The National Science Foundation funded Seal’s idea last week, approving the research proposal through a rapid review process that took about a month.

“Why not come up with a protective film made of nanostructures that could catch and kill the virus?” Seal said. “I could come up with the nanoparticles, I was sure, but would the concept work with a virus? I called Dr. Parks and yes, he thought it could work.”

Seal will create nanostructures that can capture the virus and then trigger a chemical reaction using ultraviolet light to destroy it.

“The hypothesis is that UV generation locally from these particles will inactivate the virus,” Seal said.

If successful, the coating could be added to masks, gloves and gowns, which could keep healthcare providers safer as they battle COVID-19.

The nanostructures will be created at UCF’s main campus and then shipped to Park’s lab at the College of Medicine to test against a “dictionary of viruses” he has stored in a freezer.

“I make the recipe and Dr. Parks checks against his dictionary of viruses,” Seal said. “The viruses are similar in their RNA and DNA structure to the coronavirus, but not as contagious or lethal. If it works on these closely related viruses, then we go the next step.”

Parks said if successful, it could open doors that might eventually help stop the spread of other viruses.

“And I think what we’ll learn from that is whether we might hopefully in the future be able to tailor-make materials so they can inactivate or stop the spread of a particular kind of virus,” Parks said.

In the meantime, researchers are taking one step at a time and hoping they discovery other opportunities along the way.

“If we get material that is going to stop the spread of all viruses, of course that would be -- that would be wonderful, but we’ll just have to see once we get going and get into the lab and try,” Parks said.

Seal said they won’t stop until they do.

“We will work days and nights, to get this done,” Seal said.

As of Tuesday, the coronavirus has infected an estimated 400,000 people in the United States and resulted in more than 12,800 deaths. Worldwide, more than 1.4 million have been infected, with more than 83,000 deaths.

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