Eva Chi, a professor of chemical and biological engineering at The University of New Mexico, is studying possible ways to kill SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses using UV light and polymers.

Using synthetic polymer materials, Chi and Dr. David Whitten found an effective way to kill bacteria and simple viruses. Whitten is an associate director for the Center for Biomedical Engineering and a distinguished professor for the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

“Sure enough, these materials are also active against the coronavirus. There are some differences compared to what we’ve seen before with the bacteriophages, but at the end of the day, with light, they are able to kill 99.9999 percent of the coronavirus in as little as 10 minutes of irradiation,” Chi said.

The results of this project helped Chi and the team find ways to incorporate the method to clean hospitals, public spaces and masks. The goal is to make surfaces virus-free at all times leading to sanitary public areas.

“So, the idea for these is that they could be integrated into fabrics, into countertops, even on wipes where they could potentially be long lasting,” Chi said.

With these findings, Chi works with her chemical engineering lab class to create disinfectants like hand sanitizers. She also spreads awareness to her students about people who can’t afford store-bought hand sanitizers.

“You could go to Walmart and buy hand sanitizer, but it’s really expensive. So many of my students thought of homeless shelters, classrooms, and different communities where they can give this,” she said. 

Chi believes that this project will bring a positive solution to this pandemic.

“We are making a difference. We are doing what we can. They’re obviously not used in fabrics and surfaces right now. But at least we feel like we’ve contributed towards the development of these materials to something that could be useful,” she said.

Related Story