A University of British Columbia, Okanagan researcher has invented a coating that can be applied to face masks to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, and has now received the prestigious Mitacs & NRC-IRAP Award for Commercialization.
Dr. Seyyedarash Haddadi, a postdoctoral fellow working under the supervision of Dr. Mohammad Arjmand of the UBC Okanagan School of Engineering, developed this coating, which has now received Health Canada approval and is being incorporated into millions of face masks worldwide.
Haddadi discovered that this fabric coating, made from a combination of graphene oxide and silver, reduces transmission of active pathogens – including COVID-19 viral particles – by more than 99 per cent, when incorporated in a four-ply mask.
“Wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to protect ourselves against active, airborne, viral and bacterial pathogens,” Haddadi explained.
“If a mask [with this coating] is used,…after a while the infection on the surface of the mask cannot be active. This mask can protect the person from another person’s infection and also kill pathogens on the surface of the mask.”
Working with industrial partner Zentek (formerly ZEN Graphene Solutions) and under the direction of Dr. Colin van der Kuur in a Guelph, Ont., lab, Zentek made its first commercial sale of this coating, marketed as ZenGuard, to TreborRX Corp. of Collingwood, Ont.
Zentek is also investing $6 million to build its own manufacturing capacity to produce enough coating for up to 800 million antimicrobial face masks per month in early 2022.
In terms of having support from Mitacs for his research, Haddadi stressed that in order for a researcher to conduct “high quality research,” they need “peace of mind.”
“Mitacs provides a good atmosphere for all researchers to do high quality research,” he said. “Also, through Mitacs, we can connect to industries and collaborate with different industries, and share our results, share our research and produce a commercialized product.”
“When I started this project, I was just thinking about being a part of a global team who are stopping the COVID-19 pandemic. I recommend all researchers who think they have knowledge or they have any good material to fight COVID-19, I do recommend they keep going and share their results…to be commercialized in the near future.”
For next steps, Haddadi indicated that masks are just the first application for this material and there could be additional uses in the future.
Yahoo News CanadaElisabetta Bianchini