UNM research finds chemical compound, under UV light, fights COVID-19

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Researchers at the University of New Mexico are exploring how certain polymers can be combined with UV light to create a long-lasting COVID-19 killer. “This is the most exciting thing we have been doing,” Dr. David Whitten said.

It is a breakthrough for coronavirus research at UNM. “This is one of the experiences you would like to be able to duplicate every time you take on a project,” Dr. Whitten said.

Dr. Whitten leads the team who made the discovery, finding that certain materials combined with UV light can kill coronavirus and other viruses with 99.9 percent effectiveness. “Complete inactivation of COVID can happen in five to 10 minutes,” Whitten said.

What makes their solution different than household cleaners is that their material provides a coating on surfaces. Their testing so far shows that coat can last for several days on end. When the virus hits the coating, it is trapped there. Once visible light is absorbed, the virus is inactivated. Alison Kell is the one who tested the solution with live coronavirus. “I was really surprised not only a few of them worked, but so many of them actually were very effective at inactivating the virus very quickly,” Kell said.

They are working to get registration from the Environmental Protection Agency for their materials as disinfectants to make products people can use on surfaces in hospitals, schools, grocery stores, gyms, and more. Plus, they hope for it to be an additive in existing products like Clorox wipes. “It’s having something with such clear real-world applications, deployed quickly, not only to target this pandemic but also get us prepared for another pandemic,” Kell said.

Whitten said in his decades of research, this is his most rewarding discovery. “Due to its capacity to perhaps improve human health and well being is really by far the most satisfying work I have ever been involved in,” Whitten said.

Whitten said he hopes for EPA approval in the next three to five months. He said the solution can also be added to fabrics like sheets, clothing, and masks.

New Mexico Coronavirus Resource Guide

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