HOUSTON - University of Houston physics professor Dr. Shay Curran is the brains behind an FDA-approved, hydrophobic coating spray. The concept is simple: when surfaces are sprayed, water, liquids and viruses roll right off and don't stick.
"The virus actually travels in water or liquid -- some kind of mucus. If it finds it difficult in that liquid form to actually find a grip to hold on to that surface, it falls away from you which means that it can't get close to you. The goal here is to not to allow it near your sensitive areas – your eyes, your nose, and your mouth," Dr. Curran said.
The nanotechnology is something he’s been developing for nearly a decade after certain water-repellent and water-proof materials were banned by the EPA for being toxic and cancer-causing.
Dr. Curran is now waiting for additional approval to create a 2.0 version that can actually kill the virus.
"Not only does it make it waterproof, but we have data to show that it will kill Influenza and other viruses within 5 to 10 minutes. We have incorporated that chemical into our material. We're just now waiting for approval. It’s the equivalent of the virus being hit with bleach, except it doesn’t harm you," Dr. Curran said.
The idea is simple enough. Applying the coating is even easier.
With just a few pumps of the spray, users can protect their clothes, fabric masks, tables, chairs and shared spaces, then reapply whenever necessary.
It could be a potential game-changer for how the world can safely reintegrate into society.
"People can reapply. So you can spray this thing on the mask. Let it dry. It’ll take an hour to dry, or you could get your hairdryer to cool or dry it off. Once it’s dry, the best way to test to see if its working is to get a little droplet of water and if it rolls off. It’s working.
"Potentially we could put this onto all your vents – airplane vents, car vents, train vents, it changes all of that environment because it kills the virus," Dr. Curran said.
The next steps include finalizing a name for the product, designing a label and negotiating distribution strategies with retailers.
Dr. Curran says his company Current Bio-Tech is looking at selling 8 oz bottles for less than $10. His priority will be helping the Houston-area market first by donating batches to first responders and local hospitals. Eventually, Dr. Curran says they'll expand to other states.
Meanwhile, the UH Hines architecture school has partnered with Harris Health to produce 500 new, plastic face shields for health workers at Ben Taub Hospital.
First, the staffers laser cut the plastic. The face shields are then dropped off to architecture students at their home, so they can finish assembling the straps by hand.
UH Dean of Architecture Patricia Oliver said they plan on shipping the face shields off to Ben Taub by next week.
"The material is paid for by Harris Health and we are donating the labor. The students want to help. It’s very important to them that their work, their help has impact," Oliver said.