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Benefits of nylon and zinc

Active zinc ions absorb virus-containing moisture droplets and effectively inactivate the particles.

21st September 2021

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Houston, TX, USA

Medical/Hygiene, Protective

An international team of scientists and engineers from the University of Cambridge, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, ResInnova Labs and Ascend Performance Materials has found that a nylon fabric embedded with zinc ions successfully inactivated 99% of the viruses that cause Covid-19 and the common flu.

Face masks, protective clothing and filters are used to slow the spread of viruses, but poor-quality masks can harbor active viruses from infected wearers, posing a transmission risk.

“A major challenge is absorption and inactivation,” said Vikram Gopal, chief technology officer at Ascend Performance Materials. “Respiratory viral illnesses, such as Covid-19, and the flu, are transmitted through droplets and aerosols. Polypropylene, the material in commonly used disposable masks, is a hydrophobic plastic and does not absorb moisture. Instead, the viruses can sit on the surface of the mask, posing a transmission risk when the mask is handled.

 “Cotton effectively absorbs moisture, but it doesn’t inactivate the virus – again, posing a transmission risk.”

In a paper published in ACS Applied Materials Interfaces, the researchers describe how a fabric made of nylon 6,6 embedded with active zinc ions absorbed virus-containing moisture droplets and effectively inactivated the particles. The fabric produced a 2-log, or 99%, reduction of virus particles in one hour.

The research team was also able to demonstrate that nylon with active zinc ions remains stable over time, keeping its virus-inactivating properties after 50 washes.

“The study shows how a nylon textile fabric with zinc outperforms the widely used cotton and polypropylene materials at virus absorption and inactivation,” Dr Gopal said. “Pathogen-free PPE does more than just cut down the risk of transmitting the virus. By making PPE washable and reusable, you reduce the need for single-use products, keeping hundreds of millions of masks out of landfills.”


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