Development of electrospun nanofibrous air filters for controlling the airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2

Development of electrospun nanofibrous air filters for controlling the airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (Prof. Shuai)

2 photos of electro spun nonferrous membranes and one close up view of the fibers
Electrospun Nanofibrous Membranes


Airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 has been recognized as an important route for spreading COVID-19 by the WHO and CDC. SARS-CoV-2 aerosols could suspend, accumulate, and remain infectious in the air for a long duration up to hours. To reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through aerosols, physical barriers like face masks and indoor air filters have been successfully implemented. Electrospinning has emerged as a promising nanotechnology for developing non-woven, ultrafine fibrous membranes that are excellent for removing aerosols.

Proposed Research
We develop electrospun nanofibrous membranes with a reduced fiber diameter and pore size to effectively capture coronavirus aerosols. Moreover, we incorporate photosensitizers and photocatalysts into the electrospun nanofibrous membranes to capture-and-kill coronavirus aerosols. The antimicrobial function of the membranes allows easy disinfection of used face masks and air filters under ambient conditions, i.e., under visible light irradiation by a desk lamp, and it also significantly reduces health risks of environmental pathogens.  

Previous Research Findings
With an ultrafine fiber diameter (~ 200 nm) and a small pore size (~ 1.5 µm), the optimized electrospun nanofibrous membranes caught 99.2% of the aerosols of the murine hepatitis virus A59 (MHV-A59), a coronavirus surrogate for SARS-CoV-2. We are one of the very first research groups who challenge air filters by real coronavirus aerosols, instead of NaCl, polystyrene microbeads, and bacteriophages as the surrogates. In addition, rose bengal was used as the photosensitizer for the membranes because of its excellent reactivity in generating virucidal singlet oxygen, and the membranes rapidly inactivated 98.9% of MHV-A59 in virus-laden droplets only after 15 min irradiation of simulated reading light. Singlet oxygen damaged the virus genome and impaired virus binding to host cells, which elucidated the mechanism of disinfection at a molecular level.


Research Facilities

Aerosol filtration system: BLAM Aerosol Generator disperses Aerosols (Rest Aerosols Taken Away by Vacuum). Aerosols go through filter

Aerosol filtration system


two students standing and one student crouching and giving thumbs up while working in lab

Undergraduate and graduate students working in the lab

Please visit Professor Shuai’s research group website for more details.