Aussie invents COVID-killing paint
Exclusive: An Australian scientist has created a new surface coating that "inactivates" coronavirus on impact in what may be one of the biggest global breakthroughs yet in combating COVID-19.
Dr William Ducker, a Canberra native who has been based at Virginia Tech in the US for more than a decade, has created what is potentially a game-changing copper-based substance that essentially drains the virus of its power.
It can be applied to doorknobs, light switches, shopping carts, dining tables, steering wheels, train seats - any common surface where the virus has been known to live and thrive.
And on early indications, the coating has the ability to wipe out the virus on contact for years once applied.
The Australian scientist's invention has already been peer reviewed and he is now looking for commercial support so he can market the coating worldwide.
"This virus is a major problem and we need to take away its ability to infect a human cell," Dr Ducker said.
"Breathing in the virus is the main thing, but we do need to be scared of touching things. If someone sneezes on a surface and you touch it and then you touch your mouth, in it goes.
"I wanted to create a coating that if the virus touches it, it will be inactivated. Working with the University of Hong Kong, we put droplets of the virus on a coated surface, then washed it off and tried to infect monkey cells - but the virus was no longer able to infect the cells after being in contact with the virus."
The results of the tests have been outstanding, Dr Ducker said.
When the coating is painted on glass or stainless steel, the amount of virus is reduced by 99.9 per cent in one hour, compared to the uncoated sample.
The coating is made of cuprous oxide, which is essentially recycled copper pipes and wires.
Dr Ducker believes the virus is absorbed into the coating and then "de-natured".
And even better news: the coating seems to work for long periods.
"It's great, it does that all day," he said.
"The coating will work all day.
"We think it could even last for years. Paint it on now, and we expect it will still be working this time next year."
It also retains its ability to inactivate the virus after multiple rounds of being exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and then disinfection or after being submerged in water for a week, based on the tests.
Unlike many of the daily "miracles" trumpeted to combat the virus, this product has already been peer reviewed and accepted for publication in the American Chemical Society Journal of Applied Materials and Interfaces.
"Everybody is worried about touching objects that may have the coronavirus," said Dr Ducker, who recalled that his wife questioned whether she should sit on a park bench during the pandemic.
"It would help people to relax a little bit."
Dr Ducker's specialty has been to focus on making films that kill bacteria.
As the COVID-19 virus began to spread to the United States a few months ago, he asked himself: "Why not make a coating that can eradicate a virus, rather than bacteria?"
"We had to use our chemical knowledge and experience of other viruses to guess what would kill it," Dr Ducker said.
Virginia Tech granted essential personnel status to Dr Ducker, his two PhD chemical engineering graduate students - Saeed Behzadinasab and Mohsen Hosseini - and Xu Feng from the university's Department of Chemistry so that they could enter campus labs to make the film and test its properties.
"It was an interesting experience," Dr Ducker said.
"Almost the entire campus was shut down, and we were like ghosts wandering the empty halls of Goodwin Hall. But it was very exciting to have such a clear goal. I know that it was a difficult time for many people who were bored, unhappy, or scared. We were just focused on making a coating."
Now, the Australian said he hopes to attract funding in order to mass produce the film.
"People won't have to worry as much about touching objects," he said.
"It will be both practical and fear-reducing."
Originally published as Aussie invents COVID-killing paint