Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have created a degradable plastic film with a self-sterilising coating that can kill viruses using room light.

The research was conducted by Professor Andrew Mills, Dr Ri Han and Dr Christopher O’Rourke in the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Queen’s University Belfast.

Also involved in the study were Drs Connor Bamford and Jonathon D Coey at the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s.

The researchers coated the plastic film with a thin layer of particles that absorb ultraviolet (UV) light and reactive oxygen species, which can kill SARS-2 and other viruses.

Four different pathogens were used to test the material’s anti-viral performance. These were SARS-2, two strains of the influenza A virus and a highly stable picornavirus named EMCV.

When exposed to UVA radiation or with light from a cool white light fluorescent lamp, the film was found to kill all the viruses.

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Professor Mills said: “This film could replace many of the disposable plastic films used in the healthcare industry as it has the added value of being self-sterilising at no real extra cost.

“Through rigorous testing, we have found that it is effective at killing viruses with just room light – this is the first time that anything like this has been developed and we hope that it will be a huge benefit to society.”

The project was funded by the Engineering and Physical Research Council (EPSRC), a division of UK Research and Innovation.

Researchers said that the innovation could significantly reduce virus transmission in healthcare environments, while also improving sustainability compared with disposable plastic films.

EPSRC Cross Council Programmes director Dr Kedar Pandya said: “This is a hugely exciting development which has the potential to dramatically reduce the transmission of viruses across a wide range of settings while being environmentally sustainable.”