Deakin partners launch new medical-grade face mask

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Anti-viral textile technology, developed by Australian materials technology company Xefco, with support from Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM), will be used by HeiQ Materials AG to produce medical-grade face masks.

The masks will incorporate new patent-pending technology, called MetalliX, invented by Xefco and further tested and refined with help from IFM researchers.

Independent studies conducted by the Peter Doherty Institute Xefcofor Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) showed that materials treated with MetalliX inactivate Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that has caused the COVID-19 pandemic, in as little as five minutes.

The cross-disciplinary Deakin research team, led by IFM’s Associate Professor Alessandra Sutti, worked very closely with Xefco and HeiQ to support the development of the material coating process at scale.

“The team provided scientific input and analysis of materials necessary for the scale-up from initial pilot trials to bulk production,” she said.

“We assisted in the characterisation of treated materials by co-designing, conducting and facilitating critical testing required for regulatory approval and to validate the safety of the materials.”

Sutti said the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a major re-think in priorities for her research team, with great interest from their industry partners.

“We soon realised that one way of helping to address the current pandemic emergency, as well as future pandemic threats, was to turn our energy to further catalyse the development of textiles and surfaces that are virus and bacteria-resistant,” she said.

“Together with our industry partners – like HeiQ and Xefco – we quickly shifted our focus to improve anti-microbial and anti-viral coatings and test alternative materials for personal protective equipment.

“MetalliX, the world’s first thin-film antiviral copper treatment for textiles, is a major achievement for our industry partners HeiQ and Xefco and demonstrates the value of close, all-in, Industry-Academia collaboration.”

Sutti and the IFM team will continue to work closely with industry to support the development of new specialised textile treatments that are applied to the surface of textiles during their manufacture.

“We have a full suite of characterisation techniques that can help industry rapidly prototype or screen materials for their products to maximise time efficiency and minimise more costly analysis,” she said.

“Our characterisation techniques and material expertise also help identify alternative materials, or assess the suitability of materials that are new to the medical space but have been widely used in other applications, such as food or cosmetics.”