HKUST Develops New Smart Anti-Microbial Coating in the Fight Against COVID-19

New smart anti-microbial coating in the fight against COVID-19.

Almost two years have passed since the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology opened its joint venture with Chiaphua Industries Limited. The Joint Lab of Innovative Environmental Health Technologies launched with the ambitious goal to “nurture cutting-edge research in environmental health technologies to enhance the quality of the environment as well as health and well-being of individuals and communities.” One of the laboratory’s projects, Multilevel Antimicrobial Polymer (MAP-1), has been garnering attention during the COVID-19 pandemic since a round of field tests have been completed.

One test performed on hospital curtains at the Haven of Hope retirement home and Kowloon Hospital showed a 98.7% reduction of drug-resistant bacteria over three weeks. More than 70 test sites have been used in the past seven months, focusing on schools and elderly care centers. The spun nanofiber is meant to coat materials ranging from metal to cloth. The most immediate possible use that comes to mind is coating respiratory masks for health care workers and people at risk. A March 2020 article stated that the coating has a 90-day effective period while a December 2017 piece quoted 30 days.

Hong Kong University Professor Yueng King-Iun leads the research. His inspiration for the coating came back in 2003 when the SARS epidemic worked its way through China. He wanted to develop a “smart surface” that could self-clean and self-disinfect. Three (proprietary) ingredients are used to make the colorless, odorless and transparent coating. The professor said that he knew a change was needed but the solution wasn’t obvious before using project management and engineering design tools.

“Once a list of attributes is generated, it is simply an engineering problem to implement these attributes into the product,” he said.

There is not widely available information available about how much the coating costs, how much fiber can be produced, or how quickly production could be implemented.

The MAP-1 coating is not the only engineering win for the professor during the COVID-19 outbreak. His air purification technology was recently installed at Vulcan Mountain Hospital. Another of his innovative projects is the Micro-Mini Pulsed Electric Field Device, a tool used to disinfect water at the faucet.