Covid-19: Scientists Develop New Tool That May Help Decontaminate Viruses In Aerosols

Scientists have engineered a new tool that exposes aerosolised virus particles to microwaves in a controlled manner

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Scientists have engineered a new tool that exposes aerosolised virus particles to microwaves in a controlled manner. This is an advance method that may lead to the development of novel methods to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Studies have found over the course of Covid-19 pandemic that the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 spreads through aerosols that can be generated and spread through breathing, coughing, sneezing, or talking by infected individuals.

While previous studies have explored the use of electromagnetic energy to deactivate viruses in bulk fluids.

However, less work has been done to understand the role of microwaves in inactivating viral pathogens in aerosols, said the researchers, including those from the Air Force Research Laboratory in the US.

The current research has been published in the journal Physics of Fluids. In the research, scientists developed experimental tools capable of presenting electromagnetic waves to an aerosol mixture restraining the spread of the viruses.

The apparatus offers the ability to vary power, energy, and frequency of the electromagnetic exposure, they said.

The scientists hope to better characterise the threshold levels of microwave energy needed to inactivate aerosolised viral particles and reduce their ability to spread infection the further research.

They believe the new experimental design can provide the means to identify a wide variety of virus inactivation mechanisms.

The systems are designed to avoid the release of microwaves into the work environment since at high levels the radiation could potentially interfere with diagnostic equipment and other electronics, according to the researchers.

They plan to expose coronavirus surrogate — bovine coronavirus — to microwaves at frequencies ranging from 2.8 gigahertz to 7.5 gigahertz (GHz).

In comparison, commercial microwave ovens operate at around 2.45 GHz.

Explaining, the need for the surrogate virus, Brad Hoff, a co-author of the study from the Air Force Research Laboratory, said the bovine coronavirus is “similar in size and configuration to human coronavirus, but is safe to humans.”

“If shown to be effective, the use of microwaves may enable the potential for rapid decontamination not currently addressed by ultraviolet light or chemical cleaning for highly cluttered areas, while potentially operating at levels safely compatible with human occupancy,” Hoff added.

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