Chemists at Bangor University's BioComposites Centre are working with experts from the North Wales-based company Pennotec to develop a coating with virus-destroying properties from chitosan, a chemical that is naturally found in crab shells.
It is envisaged that the coating can be applied to medical equipment, and even the masks and other protective clothing worn by NHS staff, thus killing any virus it encounters.
The project, which received funding from a UK government scheme, is still in the early stages, and once the coatings have been further developed, they will be tested for effectiveness in the laboratory.
Pennotec managing director Jonathan Hughes said: “Our business is focused on developing natural products from wastes that have benefits to health, society and the environment. Medical materials are a new departure for us.”
Chitosan is seen as one of the world's most-important polymers available to chemists, but crucially, it is a natural resource. The chitosan comes from crab shells, which are a by-product left over from producing cooked crab, and Pennotec and Bangor University get their shells from local firm Selective Seafoods.