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Novel Fabric that generates weak electrical field inactivates coronaviruses and may find use in face masks: tested at Indiana University per IEEE Spectrum


photo by Juraj Varga courtesy of

Engineers at Indiana University have tested a fabric that generates a 0.5 volt DC electrical field with small dots of silver and zinc on polyester that can inactivate coronaviruses by interfering with their electrostatic properties and ability to penetrate cells.  The virus was shown to be noninfectious after exposure to the fabric by attempting to introduce it to cell cultures, where it failed to grow and lyse the cells. The novel fabric is described in a chemrxiv preprint published on May 14 and publicized in IEEE Spectrum on May 28.

The use of face masks to filter breathed air depends on trapping viruses in the fabric; such trapped viruses are not, however, inactivated.  Applying a weak electrical field does appear to inactivate coronaviruses.  Inactivating the virus will prevent it from causing problems when the mask is removed and the user is exposed.  The only hurdle now is to ensure that the face mask will be moist, so that the battery properties of the zinc and silver dots are exploited.  The wearer’s breath may provide enough moisture to complete the circuit.

This experiment is based on a gel wound dressing with the same electrical properties that treats infections caused by bacteria that live in biofilms on wounds.  The wound dressing is commercially available from a company called Vomaris.  The researchers plan to develop a washable face mask with a replaceable piece of electrical-field producing fabric.  Protective gowns could also be practical with the same techniques.

From the IEEE Spectrum article:

In collaboration with IU [Indiana University] geneticist Kenneth Cornetta, who performed some of the initial virus experiments in his laboratory, the team exposed a pig respiratory coronavirus to the electroceutical fabric for 1 or 5 minutes. After one minute, they found evidence that the virus particles had begun to destabilize and aggregate, becoming larger than before exposure. That suggests the weak electric field was causing “damaging structural alterations to the virions,” the authors write.

The researchers also tested the fabric with the human cold coronavirus 229E, with the same results.  They have not yet performed the same tests with the SARS-COV-2 coronavirus, but are suggesting that will be equally effective.  They plan to submit an Emergency Use Authorization to FDA to produce face masks.

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