Copper-treated face masks deactivate SARS-CoV-2

Friday, 07 May, 2021

Copper-treated face masks deactivate SARS-CoV-2

Australian materials technology company Xefco has developed a groundbreaking antiviral technology that has the ability to destroy all viruses and bacteria — including SARS-CoV-2 — within minutes, and is now being used in the production of face masks by Swiss antimicrobial textile company HeiQ Materials.

Founded in 2018, Xefco specialises in innovative coating technologies for the textile industry. At the onset of the pandemic, the business identified an opportunity to leverage its proprietary coating technologies to develop highly effective antimicrobial treatments, utilising the antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties of copper.

Working with the Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) at Deakin University, which is part of the ARC Research Hub for Future Fibres, the company developed an ultrathin pure copper coating applied via a high-tech vapour deposition process, called MetalliX, which converts a minute amount of copper into vapour, allowing it to be deposited evenly to surround each fibre in a textile. It is claimed to be the world’s first thin-film antiviral copper treatment for textiles.

Researchers from The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity exposed MetalliX-treated textiles to known infectious concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 for incremental periods of time before extracting and measuring the remaining infectious virus titre. The results showed that MetalliX treated textiles deactivated the SARS-CoV-2 virus by 97.79% within five minutes and 99.95% within 15 minutes, with no infectious virus detectable on the textiles after 30 minutes. Treated materials have also been tested to kill 100% of Staphylococcus aureus and Klebsiella pneumoniae and deactivate 99.95% of H1N1 virus and 99.9% of human coronavirus 229E.

“The rapid efficacy of the coating treatment is unprecedented,” said Tom Hussey, CEO and co-founder of Xefco. “MetalliX destroys the virus [SARS-CoV-2] within minutes, whereas other existing treatments can take hours. We are incredibly excited to see the first use of the MetalliX technology in real-world applications that will help fight against this devastating virus where minutes actually count.”

Xefco is now collaborating with HeiQ Materials to commercialise materials and medical devices incorporating the technology, with the latter launching a metallic-looking, high-tech surgical mask known as HeiQ MetalliQ. Xefco has a longstanding collaborative history with HeiQ and will continue to roll out the technology to new manufacturers and product applications.

“MetalliX can be applied to a broad range of materials, including those that are difficult to treat using conventional finishing methods, unlocking new possibilities for personal protective equipment (PPE), medical textiles and air filtration aiding in the defence against COVID-19,” Hussey said. “Mask production is just the start — we hope to roll out the coating treatment onto other critical materials such as surgical gowns, drapes and curtains as well as air filters in hotels, planes and restaurants.”

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