Biodegradable Nanohybrid Materials as Candidates for Self-Sanitizing Filters Aimed at Protection from SARS-CoV-2 in Public Areas

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised the problem of efficient, low-cost materials enabling the effective protection of people from viruses transmitted through the air or via surfaces. Nanofibers can be a great candidate for efficient air filtration due to their structure, although they cannot protect from viruses. In this work, we prepared a wide range of nanofibrous biodegradable samples containing Ag (up to 0.6 at.%) and Cu (up to 20.4 at.%) exhibiting various wettability. By adjusting the magnetron current (0.3 A) and implanter voltage (5 kV), the deposition of TiO2 and Ag+ implantation into PCL/PEO nanofibers was optimized in order to achieve implantation of Ag+ without damaging the nanofibrous structure of the PCL/PEO. The optimal conditions to implant silver were achieved for the PCL-Ti0.3-Ag-5kV sample. The coating of PCL nanofibers by a Cu layer was successfully realized by magnetron sputtering. The antiviral activity evaluated by widely used methodology involving the cultivation of VeroE6 cells was the highest for PCL-Cu and PCL-COOH, where the VeroE6 viability was 73.1 and 68.1%, respectively, which is significantly higher compared to SARS-CoV-2 samples without self-sanitizing (42.8%). Interestingly, the samples with implanted silver and TiO2 exhibited no antiviral effect. This difference between Cu and Ag containing nanofibers might be related to the different concentrations of ions released from the samples: 80 mu g/L/day for Cu2+ versus 15 mu g/L/day for Ag+. The high antiviral activity of PCL-Cu opens up an exciting opportunity to prepare low-cost self-sanitizing surfaces for anti-SARS-CoV-2 protection and can be essential for air filtration application and facemasks. The rough cost estimation for the production of a biodegradable nanohybrid PCL-Cu facemask revealed $0.28/piece, and the business case for the production of these facemasks would be highly positive, with an Internal Rate of Return of 34%.
MOLECULES. 2022, vol. 27, issue 4, 21 p.
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