Picture: City University of Hong Kong

Graphene masks provides high efficiency against coronavirus

CAPE TOWN – New graphene masks could be one of the most efficient facemasks with very high antibacterial efficiency and able to deactivated the coronavirus completely.

As the Covid-19 pandemic created a facemask culture throughout the world, a variety of mask designs, colours and efficiency can be found on the market today. But a question many ask is just how efficient these masks really are with a constant wave of newly equipped masks popping up every so now and then.

A team of researchers from City University of Hong Kong (CityU) have successfully developed and produced graphene masks which shows extremely promising results in the deactivation of two species of coronaviruses and showed an antibacterial efficiency of 80 percent and capable of meeting 100 percent with just 10 minutes of sunlight exposure.

Commonly used surgical masks are not antibacterial which means there is a chance of secondary transmission of the virus if someone touches the contaminated area of the used masks or disposes of them improperly. The fabrics used to make these surgical masks and especially the bacterial filter found within may impact the environment too as they do not decompose easily. With this in mind, many scientists and companies have been looking at alternative masks productions.

Dr. Ye Ruquan, Assistant Professor from CityU’s Department of Chemistry, had studied graphene several years ago and had learnt how to easily produce the antibacterial material easily going on to kick start the recent study on how effective these materials may be in the fight against Covid-19.

Picture: City University of Hong Kong

Making of the laser-induced graphene requires no chemicals, is low on power consumption, the cost to produce is low and all that is required is a CO2 infrared laser system and carbon-containing raw materials, with Dr Ye also adding, “Laser-induced graphene masks are reusable. If biomaterials are used for producing graphene, it can help to resolve the problem of sourcing raw material for masks. And it can lessen the environmental impact caused by the non-biodegradable disposable masks.”

With previous studies suggesting that Covid-19 lost its infectivity in high temperatures, the team of researchers went on to experiment graphene’s photothermal effect by producing heat after absorbing light with the material proving to enhance the antibacterial effects within 10 minutes under sunlight with a 99.998% of antibacterial efficiency while melt-blown fabrics like surgical masks and activated carbon varied from 67% to 85% efficiency.

After the team’s findings and a later discovery on how effective the graphene masks have been against two other species of human coronaviruses with a 90% deactivation and five minutes of sunlight reaching nearly 100% efficiency, the team had planned for further developments with Covid-19 tests to be underway.

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