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IIT-G team develops anti-microbial coating for PPE kits
PRANJAL BHUYAN
 GUWAHATI, April 15 - As part of the effort to contribute in the ongoing fight to prevent spread of COVID-19, a team of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati researchers has successfully developed an anti-microbial spray-based coating for personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as a 3D printed ear guard for use in face masks.

 “Our research group has developed an affordable anti-microbial (both anti-viral and anti-bacterial) spray-based coating for PPE kits. It can kill and prevent the spread of microbes once they come in contact with the coated PPE surface. The strategic association of metal nanoparticle cocktail, such as copper, silver and other active ingredients present in the spray acts as an anti-microbial agent. This ensures limited penetration and accumulation of microbial contaminants on PPEs. Thus, the coating has the potential to reduce the risk of secondary infection by limiting transmission of the microbes,” said Dr Biman B Mandal, Professor in the Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering of IIT Guwahati, who along with PhD scholar Bibhas K Bhunia, developed the concept.

He said that the innovation is affordable and can be easily deployed using existing infrastructure available with PPE manufacturers.

“It can be sprayed or dip-coated onto any kind of surface, including textiles and other medical devices to get rid of microbial load. This will allow reusability of PPEs and easy containment of the microbes. Our team has developed the prototype of the technology. Further validation of product safety is going on and anti-microbial action specifically against coronavirus will be done at a government facility,” said Dr Mandal.

A provisional patent for the technology has been filed by the research team.

The PPEs used presently are designed to protect the wearer from infectious microbes and aqueous virus droplets acting as a barrier, but they generally do not have the ability to prevent the spread of microbes as the surface of the fabric allows accumulation of microbes with passage of time.

Dr Mandal, along with Bhunia and another PhD scholar Ashutosh Bandyopadhyay, has also carried out 3D printing of an ear guard prototype for better use of face masks by healthcare sector workers.

Dr Mandal said that long-time usage of strapped and tight-fitting face masks causes discomfort to the ears.

“This has been a major concern with healthcare workers who have to wear these masks for hours at a stretch. Our team has 3D printed the ear guard prototype to address this issue. The ergonomical design of the guard holds the face mask strap in place without giving pressure to the ear. As such, the masks can be worn for hours without pain or discomfort. The ear guards are being made in a free size to fit all by using 3D printers and are affordable and long-lasting. These are being printed at the Biomaterial and Tissue Engineering Laboratory of our institute using polymer resins,” he added,

The team is printing thousands of such ear guards for distribution to hospitals across the North East.

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