USask researchers creating filter to clean viruses like the one behind COVID-19

The University of Saskatchewan team hopes to design an affordable, shoebox sized filter. Credit: Nazanin Charchi

Scientific research has shifted this past year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jafar Soltan, a University of Saskatchewan (USask) chemical engineering professor, and a team of researchers were previously developing methods and catalysts to clean air using technology at Canadian Light Source.

They were focusing on filtering chemicals and air pollutants, but are now also seeing how the technology can clean viruses. Filtering viruses brought on additional challenges for the researchers.

“We had to work on our technology and on our catalyst to make it applicable to treat these chemicals and these viruses inside the water droplets,” Soltan explained.

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The filter being created is different than most.

“Our catalysts are active filters. If it’s pathogens, they are inactivating that and if it’s other pollutants they completely convert them,” Nazanin Charchi, USask chemical engineering PhD candidate said.

The team hasn’t tested the active filter with COVID-19 yet and is currently working on its efficiency.

“The catalyst in a way would fry the virus, basically oxidizing it and taking away the functionality of it. We call it inactivating the virus,” Soltan said about how the filter could clean COVID-19 in the air.

Further collaborations are needed before the team can move forward with testing viruses like the novel coronavirus. Soltan hopes to collaborate with VIDO-InterVac where they could test the filter, as well as air conditioning companies who could include the filter in air conditioning units.

“Even the common flu or different variations of (COVID-19) that may come up in the future. These are the things that we hope that our treatment system can get out,” Soltan said.

They hope to have a final design and study by June and would then talk to other partners before being able to test the filter with COVID-19 or a similar virus.

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They expect the design to be affordable something many people could have access to.

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1st doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Saskatchewan given to health-care workers

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