A new carbon-grounded air filtration nanomaterial able of capturing & destroying different viruses, including animal coronavirus, a close relation of SARS-CoV-2 — virus that causes COVID-19 — has been developed by Cambridge scientists & masterminds.
The prototype, developed & tested by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the Boies Group, in Department of Engineering, and with associates from the Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy and Department of Pathology, is equipped with ultra-thin carbon nanotube electrically conductive membranes. This new conductive filtration membrane enables simultanous virus filtration & sanitisation by thermal flashes via resistive heating to temperatures above 100 °C, de-activating viruses, including beta-coronavirus, in seconds.
The experimenters say the multifunctional filter is especially useful at fighting the viral spread of airborne diseases in confined environment similar as emergency vehicles, hospitals, rest & education centers, whether it’s used as a standalone unit or in confluence with heating, ventilation, & air conditioning (HVAC) filtration systems. The results, including findings taken during virus infectivity trials backed by theoretical modeling, are reported in the journal Carbon.
The filter represents a new class of conductive filtration mediums enabling electrical functionality with the capability to be mass produced, & enjoying filtration effectiveness & air permeability that matches that of marketable HEPA ( high- effectiveness particulate air) filters. It effectively captures respiratory liquid driblets — a carrier of numerous viruses, including coronaviruses — that are produced through coughing, speaking & breathing and which remain suspended in the air for hours, migrating over 10s of meters in confined surroundings. It’s these respiratory particles that contribute to high infection rates in enclosed & crowded spaces.
Produced by a unique process constructed at University, the innovative carbon nanotube material is also the pillar of the ANAM Initiative, funded by the EPSRC, which seeks to unlock the marketable potential offered by carbon nanotubes.
Ph.D. pupil Liron Issman said” Based on the knowledge acquired by this project (the result of an Innovate UK- funded entitlement), several working prototypes have been developed showing the capability of the filter to achieve air purification of 99 percent of a small room or an ambulance within 10 – 20 min. Several artificial collaboration systems have been initiated with world- leading air filtration companies to introduce this carbon nanotube material into state-of-the- art applications to help combat COVID-19 & other airborne- grounded pathogens.
“To meet the request demands, our unique process is being gauged commercially by Q-Flo Limited, a University of Cambridge spin- out, to originally produce over 100,000m2/ yr of membrane material. The benefits of these conductive filtration materials are that they give low flow resistance with high capture effectiveness & capabilities for also heating & seeing.”