It would seem that we have finally found the light at the end of the long two-year tunnel of social and economic uncertainty as Covid restrictions are eased in many (but not all) countries. The pandemic has certainly shaken the certainty and confidence of many people around the world. Returning to a normal, stress-free life seems more difficult than one would have imagined back in mid-2019, but solutions exist to get back to a new normality.
It would be unwise to talk about a return to life as we knew it pre-Covid. The pandemic has rocked the foundations of the global economic system, but that is not to say that a new way of doing things cannot be achieved. When it comes to fighting the spread of viruses and bacteria, some companies have proven to have ready-made solutions that can aid global efforts at relaunching this new, post-Covid reality.
Anti-Microbial Technology in Air Filters
It is safe to say that the pandemic has forever changed our attitudes to travelling. Trains, aeroplanes have gone from safe, secure and convenient modes of getting from A to B, to spaces crawling with bacterial and viral hazards. Travel anxiety has certainly increased, especially among the cautious and immunocompromised…
Lucky for us, then, that certain players are looking at solutions to allay our fears. Researchers at the University of Birmingham working in partnership with firms NitroPep Ltd and Pullman AC have been developing a special new type of air filter, adapted with a new kind of antimicrobial technology that has been proven to kill bacteria, fungi and viruses including SARS-CoV-2 in just seconds, providing a possible, tailored solution to airborne transmission.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront of public consciousness the real need for new ways to control the spread of airborne respiratory pathogens […] We are excited that we have been able to develop a filter treatment which can kill bacteria, fungi and viruses – including SARS-CoV-2 – in seconds. This addresses a global un-met need and could help clean the air in enclosed spaces, helping to prevent the spread of respiratory disease,” said Dr Felicity de Cogan, Royal Academy of Engineering Industry Fellow, University of Birmingham.
The study, published on March 9, 2022 in the journal Scientific Reports, outlined how cells of the Wuhan strain of SARS-CoV-2 were added to the filters over a period of more than one hour, and were killed within 60 seconds. They were subsequently integrated into the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems on train carriages, with promising results. Perhaps travel anxiety will finally be a thing of the past for most of us.
Bioguard, a Pre-Covid Solution with Post-Covid Benefits
Oberthur Fiduciaire, the French banknote printer, had already developed its trademark antiviral solution for banknotes, Bioguard, before the outbreak of the pandemic. The solution has proved more than effective against the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (even if the Bank of England, for example, tried to allay concerns regarding viral transmission via banknotes).
The Bioguard solution was developed in conjunction with Biological Consulting Services, a U.S. based lab and leader in the field of pathogen analysis. Originally developed specifically for banknotes, the solution involves applying either paper treatment during manufacture, or a varnish post-print that protects the surface from dangerous pathogens.
“Our teams developed a treatment that was constantly tested and improved in order to make the surface of banknotes ‘hostile’ to bacteria, viruses and other microscopic fungi – without having any negative impact on humans,” said Oberthur Fiduciaire’s general manager, Etienne Couëlle.
But with the arrival of the pandemic, Bioguard was quickly put to other uses, with the solution proving incredibly effective on an array of different surfaces, such as packaging, paper documents, and surfaces such as tables or desks, thus providing round the clock protection from viruses and bacteria and playing its part to prevent any future global health crisis.
“With the advent of Covid-19, we quickly looked at extending the technology to other areas. Paper, packaging, screens, tables and other surfaces can also be protected, which means that we can offer the solution to all types of industries. For each new application, we carry out a rigorous regulatory review and tailor-made development to ensure a precise and effective solution,” said Nicolas Koutros, Director General of Bioguard & Co.
Indeed, as the Bioguard solution can be applied to a variety of different surfaces, it has not gone unnoticed by different companies across diverse sectors. Several producers have already had experience adding Bioguard to their products, including the Slovenian companies Radeče Papir and Muflon and the Swiss company Rotoflex, and many others.
Touchless Sensors in India
While Bioguard acts as a protective layer on a variety of different surfaces, some companies are looking into technologies that would negate the need to touch certain surfaces altogether. Scientists have been developing cutting edge solutions to deal with the threat of viral transmission via various different vectors, making people’s lives more adaptable to future pandemic threats.
Researchers at the Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences (CeNS) and the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced and Scientific Research (JNCASR) in India, for example, have developed an affordable solution to develop low-cost touch-cum-proximity sensors, popularly called touchless touch sensors, through a printing technique.
The solution would make physical contact with touchscreens in public places, such as ATMs, self-service checkouts and vending machines no longer necessary, greatly reducing the threat of viral surface transmission.
“We are making a few more prototypes using our patterned electrodes to prove their feasibility for other smart electronic applications. These patterned electrodes can be made available to interested industries and R&D labs on a request basis to explore collaborative projects,” said Dr. Indrajit Mondal, a co-author in the research.
In our post-Covid world, it will take time and effort to restore confidence and get to grips with a new kind of normality, especially in public spheres. We can however take comfort in the fact that some companies are working tooth and nail to provide effective solutions to protect us from the future viral threats, whether they be chemical solutions, technological innovations or a revolution in working habits.
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