The possibilities of contagion of the coronavirus by surfaces – by fomites, in medical language – are scarce, as has been stated by the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC). However, many companies have been applied to eliminate any risk of that happening. “We have taken a giant step forward. AlpFilm Protect PVC is a plastic film capable of inactivating 99.99% of the coronavirus in 15 minutes ”. The speaker is Professor Juan Andrés Bort, head of the Laboratory of Theoretical and Computational Chemistry (QTC) of the Jaume I University of Castelló (UJI), one of the pieces of the Spanish-Brazilian business and university consortium that has launched this invention applicable to the packaging of food, such as meats, fruits, vegetables and sausages, to tetrabriks and toys, or to the protection of surfaces such as elevator buttons, touch screens, knobs or railings.
Created by researchers from UJI, the Brazilian Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) and the companies Braskem, AlpFilm and Nanox, the new product, already on the market, sets itself a challenge: what to store the weekly purchase, check the mobile phone, type in front of the computer or pressing the elevator button minimize the risk of contagion of the coronavirus. “500 tons of plastic with these properties are being manufactured per day, destined for the US and Chinese markets, among others,” explains Bort. Due to the great demand for these materials that eliminate the virus by contact, the companies that have incorporated this new technology in fabrics, plastics and films, have multiplied their production by five or six and, therefore, their turnover in recent months.
To the antifungal and bactericidal impact of the product that emerged in 2014, it is now added its virucidal plus, endorsed by technical regulations that measure viral activity in plastics. The transparent PVC film with silver and silica microparticles has given rise to this technology. Silica is a semiconductor that is activated with metallic silver to generate highly oxidizing molecules that are capable of inactivating 79.9% of the new coronavirus in three minutes and 99.99% in up to 15 minutes, recall the promoters of the product. “At the end of 2019, when covid-19 appears, we realized that the objective should be to obtain materials that were capable of killing this virus. The problem? That finding strains of the virus was almost impossible because very few laboratories had permission to handle it. We were unable to do trials in Spain, but we obtained authorization in Brazil. With a multidisciplinary team of researchers and technologists, in March 2020 we achieved a virucidal material against covid-19 ”, explains the professor.
The challenge of ceramics
It was initially applied to fabrics: masks, jackets, personal protective equipment (PPE), clothing for cooks… “Many textile factories in Latin America and the United States are producing masks and clothing with these properties. Now we have applied this technology to plastics and work is being done to use it in wood and paper and, in the specific case of Castellón, the epicenter of the national tile industry, in ceramics ”. And all with the same objective: to obtain surfaces capable not only of eliminating bacteria and fungi, but also viruses by contact, with the consequent impact that this would have on facilities such as hospitals, health centers, supermarkets, hotels …
“Given the challenges imposed by the covid-19, we decided to direct our attention to the research and development of this product evolution for the inactivation of the new coronavirus by contact,” says Alessandra Zambaldi, director of Foreign Trade and Marketing of AlpFilm, one of the largest manufacturers of PVC plastic films in Brazil, with a monthly production of 450 tons of material.
For the Braskem company, the efficiency of the material reinforces the relevance of plastic in initiatives aimed at the health and safety of society. “Plastic has been a great ally in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. PVC solutions allow the production of a series of essential items, ranging from medical and hospital products to packaging, which guarantee food safety, hygiene and cleanliness, among others, reinforcing the fight against covid ”, explains Almir Cotias , director of Vinyls at Braskem Business, the area responsible for the production of the raw material for AlpFilm Protect PVC film.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.