Anti-viral fabrics to tackle COVID-19

Dr. S. S. VERMA; Department of Physics, S.L.I.E.T., Longowal; Distt.-Sangrur (Punjab)-148 106

2020-06-16 16:19:49



Antibacterial treatment of clothing was already relatively widespread before the Covid-19 outbreak, marketed as a way consumers could critically reduce the frequency of washing their clothes but the pandemic has hastened demand for its protective qualities. The world is facing an unprecedented crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic which has brought fabrics to fore front to control the spread of corona virus in the form of masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) not only for corona warriors but for everybody along with social distances and sanitization methods. Given the current world situation of COVID-19 pandemic what could be better than anti-viral clothing that can be useful to anyone and everyone.  With an increasing public awareness about infectious diseases, scientists and textile industry are putting efforts to develope hygienic fabrics by the addition of various antimicrobial and antiviral compounds. Research shows that viruses and bacteria can remain active on textile surfaces for up to two days, therefore, efforts have always going on to develop anti-viral/bacterial fabrics for their different utilities but at present they (anti-viral) fabrics are in great demand in order to have not only masks & PPEs but daily wearable clothes in general in order to control the spread of corona virus. This article is an effort to bring out the latest developments in the anti-viral fabric to the reader.

Autoinoculation, where a person puts the virus into their own body after touching a contaminated surface, is generally considered to be a secondary route of infection for corona viruses like Covid-19. Far more common is the airborne transmission of the virus through inhaling droplets after someone has sneezed or coughed. Nevertheless, there is strong evidence that clothing is still a transmission route for viruses, with multiple studies showing that infectious material can linger on fabrics. Fabrics used are supposed to protect the wearer and/or the others but they are also a potential vector for viruses and bacteria during, before and after use but with ordinary fabrics, there is a risk of transferring pathogen to and picking up pathogen from the surfaces of the fabric equipment when picking it up, putting it on or taking off, disposing it unsafely/leaving it lying around, touching it while wearing or for adjustment. Hence, there is always a risk of contracting the virus through touching the face after touching the contaminated surface of the fabrics. While the tests are proving that these treated materials can likely destroy corona viruses a few minutes after contact, what is less clear is how this and other novel technologies such as antimicrobial surfaces can impact a person’s overall chances of catching the illness. As well as the challenge of proving a product’s efficacy, manufacturers must also produce fabrics attractive enough that consumers want to purchase.

Scientists are developing a fiber treatment using photoactive dyes that inactivate enveloped viruses upon illumination with visible light. Dyes which can generate the most single oxygen (the active antiviral agent) per unit light intensity for light sources e.g., solar, incandescent, and fluorescent lamps, will be suitable for the purpose. Researchers propose to modify air filtration textiles with these dye coatings and test efficacy to significantly inactivate influenza viruses trapped on the fiber. Suitability of coating methods will be based on applying the photoactive dye-carrier combinations to air filtration surfaces which will allow maximum singlet oxygen generation. The specially designed antiviral and anti-bacterial fabrics inhibit growth and retention of microorganisms, making them safe and hygienic and the fabrics retain their properties up to even 50 washes.  

Some of the latest developments towards anti-viral fabrics are:

  • Shiva Texyarn Limited (India) has recently launched its anti-viral fabric ideal for medical nonwovens (e.g., face masks) to fabrics for clothing and home textiles like uniforms, bedding, curtains, carpets etc. by making use of HeiQ Viroblock NPJ03 an intelligent Swiss textile technology that is added to the fabric during the final stage of the textile manufacturing process which makes textile surfaces more resistant to pathogens, including bacteria and viruses. HeiQ Viroblock NPJ03 has proven effective against SARS-CoV-2 and the COVID-19 claiming to deactivate most pathogens in the shortest possible time.  HeiQViroblock method of making anti-viral fabrics is a special combination of advanced silver and vesicle technology that has been proven effective against the human corona virus 229E with over 99.99 per cent reduction of virus.  Moreover, it is safe and non-toxic.  Protective medical fabrics, e.g. used for face masks, air filters, medical gowns, curtains, drapes; clothing, upholstery, mattresses; products of all fiber types (especially nonwovens) can benefit from this innovative fabric treatment.
  • A leading Italian luxury manufacturer says it has developed an antiviral fabric that can protect from Covid-19. Using this technology Arvind Ltd. (India) the leading textile-to-retail conglomerate will offer shirting & suiting fabrics, readymade garments and face masks in the country. In a very short period of time, company is planning to introduce fabrics that will provide best-in-class viral protection and are fashionable at the same time. Similarly, GRADO, a market leader in innovation and excellence, has come up with NEO TECH® technology wherein the products are high quality, utilitarian and have a shield against bacteria and viruses alike.
  • ETH Zurich has developed a new treatment for textiles that reduces viral infectivity on treated surfaces and the technology can be used for face masks and other textile products. Recently, this company has presented an innovative antiviral and antibacterial treatment for textiles, which has been tested effectively against corona virus.
  • Carrington Textiles (UK) teaming up with a UK biotech firm has developed a fabric that prevents and protect against airborne virus transmission. Anti-viral fabric coating applied to a light, easy to wear guarantees a 360 degree and 96% protection against viruses in the air. The product acts as a barrier that attracts, traps and kills viruses in airborne droplets 15 times smaller than a human hair, so it’s safe to wear and touch as the virus will become inactive after touching the fabric.

Brief biodata of the contributor:

S S Verma, working as Professor in the Department of Physics, SLIET, Longowal (centrally funded institute, established by Govt. of India & funded by MHRD).  Teaching Physics to Diploma, Degree and Master of Sciences (in Physics) students since 1994. Did M.Sc. (Physics) (1982) from HP University, Shimla and Ph.D. (1989) from Department of Physics, IIT Delhi. Did post doctoral studies at Toyohashi University of Technology, Japan from October 1991 to March 1993 under Japanese government (MONBUSHO) fellowship.