UG team to develop cutting-edge technology to remove coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, from the air

Scientists from the University of Gdańsk, Jagiellonian University and a scientific-industrial consortium including Producent Stolarki PCV i AL 'BEWI' Bernard Wójcik (project leader) obtained funding for the implementation of a project entitled: 'Development of innovative technology for removing coronaviruses from the air, including SARS-CoV-2 with the use of photocatalytic layers implemented in an air purifier'. The amount of co-financing is nearly PLN 3 million, and the total value of the project is an additional PLN 1 million.



Scheme of photocatalytic reaction used for inactivation of pathogens - on the surface of photocatalytic layer exposed to UV radiation, active oxygen forms (including hydroxyl radicals) are generated, which are responsible for inactivation of bacteria, fungi and viruses (drawn by: dr inż. P. Mazierski)

The project is the result of years of work by prof. Zaleska-Medynska's team at the UG Department of Chemistry on the application of photocatalytic processes to air purification, as well as an earlier collaboration between the UG team and the BEWI company on the development of air purification devices integrated into window frames. In photocatalytic processes, active oxygen species - such as hydroxyl radicals - are used to degrade or transform air pollutants and to inactivate bacteria, fungi or viruses.

- 'The project aims to develop a technology for air purification from SARS-CoV-2, microorganisms and chemicals with proven inactivation efficiency>99% (for SARS-CoV-2 >99.99%). The developed technology will be used to design and build prototype devices for indoor and/or outdoor air purification, which will be adapted for installation in a window frame or against a wall, for use in closed rooms especially with high density and flow of people,' - explains prof. Adriana Zaleska-Medynska from the Faculty of Chemistry UG. - 'Its target customers are offices, health care facilities, public administration bodies, trade and households. The developed technology should increase the safety of people residing primarily in closed spaces, due to significantly lower amount of pollutants (including pathogens) in the air,' - adds prof. Zaleska-Medynska.

The project will involve two teams from the Faculty of Chemistry of the University of Gdańsk: the team of prof. Piotr Skowron from the Department of Molecular Biotechnology and the team of prof. Adriana Zaleska-Medynska from the Department of Environmental Technology (R&D manager of the project). Prof. Skowron's team will be responsible for developing a model virus (bacteriophage) at the initial stage of the project - similar to the SARS-CoV-2 virus - which will enable safe testing of the technology at the first stages of research. Prof. Zaleska-Medynska's team is responsible for developing a new, significantly cheaper technology for producing photocatalytic layers, containing TiO2 nanoparticles and silver and/or copper compounds. Modification of TiO2 nanoparticles with silver and copper compounds allows to increase the efficiency of inactivation of pathogenetic microorganisms during the photocatalytic process, however, such studies have not been conducted so far for coronaviruses, and the technology itself needs to be modified to reduce costs, which will facilitate the commercialisation of the developed product. In the next stage of the project, a team from the Department of Environmental Technology will develop the final geometry of the photocatalytic module, i.e. the shape and size of photocatalytic layers and their appropriate lighting with UV radiation, which will allow for achieving the assumed efficiency of elimination of chemical pollutants (volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide) and microbiological pollutants (Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria, model bacteriophage and, in the final stage, SARS-CoV-2 virus).

The company Producent Stolarki PCV i AL 'BEWI' Bernard Wójcik, which has been operating on the market for 27 years and produces and sells windows and doors throughout the European Union in the project will develop the final construction of air purification devices and will develop a system for remote control of the devices and will also test air purifiers in terms of their usability and ergonomics of work, including the effectiveness of the devices taking into account the changing weather conditions (temperature and air humidity) and also in terms of the level of generated noise. BEWI will also be responsible for the construction of a prototype BSL-3 safety class measuring chamber (for work with highly infectious pathogens and hazardous work ensuring maximum protection for the environment and the operator), which will allow the safe assessment of the effectiveness of photocatalytic devices throughout the project.

Validation of the developed technology in terms of SARS-CoV-2 virus inactivation will be possible thanks to the cooperation with the team of prof. Krzysztof Pyrć - head of the virological laboratory at the Małopolska Biotechnology Centre at the Jagiellonian University. Prof. Krzysztof Pyrć is a world-class specialist in microbiology and virology, and the laboratory headed by him is a modern class 3 biosafety infectious laboratory, which allows work on the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The final stage of the project will be pre-implementation work. In this phase, BEWI will verify the control system of the air purification equipment, a graphical user interface will be prepared with the possibility of access from a web browser. As part of the last task, the documentation necessary to launch the air purifier on the market will also be prepared. The proposed solutions are cutting-edge on the scale of the Polish market and foreign markets, and to obtain the expected results requires industrial research, experimental development involving specialists in the field of chemistry, virology and production of window frames joined together in a consortium.

In the work of the teams from the University of Gdańsk will also participate dr inż. Anna Gołabiewska, dr inż. Anna Malankowska, dr inż. Beata Bajorowicz and dr inż. Paweł Mazierski (team of prof. Zaleska Medynska from the Department of Environmental Technology) and dr Beata Łubkowska and dr Irenusz Sobolewski (team of prof. Skowron from the Department of Molecular Biotechnology).

Funding for the project was obtained under the programme 5/1.1.1/2020 Fast Track Coronaviruses.

More information:

Photo by prof. Adriana Zaleska-Medynska taken by P. Sudara

Julia Bereszczyńska/Press Office of University of Gdańsk