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New fabric decontaminates itself

Swatches | March 1, 2024 | By:

A glove made by Rice University researchers uses Joule heating to kill viruses without burning the user’s skin. Image: Rice University

Rice University researchers have created a material that could enhance personal protective equipment (PPE)—a composite textile that decontaminates itself, killing at least 99.9% of coronaviruses.

The textile-based material uses Joule heating, a process where the energy of an electric current is converted into heat, to decontaminate the material’s surface, removing coronaviruses, such as SARS-CoV-2 and HCoV-OC43, in under five seconds. 

As the energy of the electrical current converts to heat, the material’s outer surface quickly rises to temperatures above 100 C (212 F) while the reverse side remains at about 36 C (96.8 F), close to body temperature to ensure the user isn’t burned.

“This material allows you to decontaminate in seconds, so you can get back to the task at hand,” says Marquise Bell, a Rice mechanical engineering graduate student and lead author of the study.

The innovation could one day offer an alternative to single-use nitrile gloves to reduce PPE waste because it can be used hundreds of times. The researchers’ next steps include experimenting with the fabric’s response to other viruses and bacteria to expand its usage.

The research was published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces in September 2023.

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