Researchers from IIT Mandi develop reusable virus killing masks from discarded

Improperly disposed of PPEs are serious secondary sources of transmission. Researchers from IIT Mandi have found an apt solution to this. A mask can be layered with Molybdenum Sulphide to make it self cleaning and reusable. One can simply put these masks under the sun and they would be good to go for reuse.

With the ever-increasing rise in COVID-19 cases, India is grappling with managing the catastrophic situation. While the shortage of PPEs has led to panic, the unsafe disposal of facemasks continues to multiply waste and secondary infections. To deal with this massive problem, a team of researchers at IIT Mandi has come up with an anti-bacterial, self-cleaning material for facemasks and PPE Equipment. This nanomaterial can be used to disinfect the masks thus rendering them reusable. Dr Amit Jaiswal, Assistant Professor, School of Basic Sciences, IIT Mandi, with his team of research scholars including Mr Praveen Kumar, Mr Shounak Roy, and Ms Ankita Sarkar, developed a pathbreaking solution in the form of antimicrobial material. It can be used to combat the second wave of COVID-19 in India. Dr Jaiswal shared, “Keeping the urgency of the pandemic situation and cost-effectiveness, we developed a strategy to repurpose existing PPEs and face masks. We have achieved this by providing an antimicrobial coating to these protective clothing/textiles.” The results of their recent work have been published in the prestigious journal of the American Chemical Society – Applied Materials & Interfaces.


Explaining the science behind it
Scientists have found out that a thin layer of Molybdenum Sulphide (notated as MoS2) is sharp enough to perforate the outer walls of bacteria and viruses. The team developed a 2-d nanometre-sized sheet of MoS2 and deposited it on a piece of cotton fabric and studied it. Their findings reported that the modified fabric had all the properties of MoS2. The nanomaterial has sheet-like properties with sharp edges and corners that act as nano knives to pierce through the bacterial and viral membranes. This makes it an excellent option to use for covering protective clothing such as PPEs and facemasks. This would help in reusing existing clothing thus reducing the accumulation of single-use masks or discarded masks in general. The nanomaterial of Molybdenum Sulphide also possesses photothermal properties which enable disinfection when exposed to sunlight. 

The researchers have come up with the prototype of a 4-layered mask using MoS2 fabric. Notably, the light-cleanable material is proven to filter >96% of particles that are in the size range of the COVID Virus. More importantly, it does so without compromising on the breathability of the fabric. In this way, it can also help in averting the spread of coronavirus.

Illustrative explainer | Courtesy : IIT Mandi

Can this nanomaterial solution be used for repurposing PPEs

“We began working on this solution around two years ago. There was no COVID then. We developed an antimicrobial nanomaterial that could filter viruses and clean itself. We have even published an article demonstrating the properties of MoS2. However, after the pandemic hit, we thought of using the material to repurpose PPEs. The urgent situation all across the globe prompted us to give shape to our idea,” said Dr Jaiswal. The team of researchers is ready with the prototype of the repurposed PPEs and masks. Now they are looking forward to tying up with industrial collaborators to scale up the solution. The research team has tested the solution in the lab and found the MoS2-modified fabrics killing the viruses. And are currently looking for partnerships for upscaling the idea before commercialising the solution. Dr Jaiswal also mentions that it will need further optimisation before it can be made available into the market.

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Easy, Viable and affordable

This proposed solution is handy, viable and easily replicable. One can purchase MoS2 sheets, costing Rs 3-4 per square centimetre, from the market and make homemade masks out of them. So it can be easily used by not just the medical fraternity but also the common public. The Molybdenum Sulphide nanomaterial has wide applications in the biomedical field. Few of which include designing biosensors or phototherapy in cancer treatment. The material can also be used as a screening layer for the sheets and curtains in makeshift isolation wards. It can make containment cells and quarantines for holding individuals who come in contact with pathogens. Dr Jaiswal adds that the immediate impact of this solution will be huge considering the current situation of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

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