An international team led by researchers from North Carolina State University has created an antiviral, antimicrobial liquid metal coating for fabrics.

The team, which also included researchers from Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) in Korea and RMIT University in Australia, applied liquid gallium to facemasks and other fabrics using a metal coating deposition process.

To accomplish this, the researchers added the liquid gallium to an ethanol solution and employed sound waves to produce liquid gallium nanoparticles that were then spray-coated onto fabric. Once coated onto the fabric, the liquid gallium adhered to the textiles while the ethanol component evaporated.

The team then immersed the liquid gallium-coated fabric into a solution of copper sulfate, which produced a spontaneous galvanic replacement reaction wherein copper was deposited onto the fabric. This resulted in a coating of liquid metal copper alloy nanoparticles.

In the lab, the research team exposed the coating to three different microbes — Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Candida albicans — and two different viruses — human influenza (H1N1) and coronavirus. According to the team, the coating eliminated both the microbes (99%) and the viruses in just minutes.

Compared to other copper-coated surface solutions, the research team believes that their liquid metal copper-coated fabric demonstrated better performance and adhesion.

The study, A Liquid Metal Mediated Metallic Coating for Antimicrobial and Antiviral Fabrics, appears in the journal Advanced Materials.

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