Editorial Feature

Using Metal Organic Frameworks to kill COVID-19 Virus

COVID-19 indoor space breakthrough as ‘radical’ chemistry can kill the virus in air conditioners and purifiers.

  • Crystal-based coating in air conditioners can be used to destroy COVID-19
  • Upon exposure to light, the crystalline materials generate hydroxyl radicals which decapitate the crowns of the virus
  • Scientists say that this ‘exciting work’ could help make hospitals and elderly care facilities safer

Scientists have made a breakthrough in the fight against Coronavirus 2019, or COVID-19, after developing a crystal-based coating that upon exposure to light kills the virus.  framergy, Inc. of College Station, Texas, is reporting that they have tested the crystalline materials, AYRSORBTM T125, against live culture COVID-19.  AYRSORBTM T125 is a metal organic framework, often referred to as a MOF.  These materials are super adsorbents, and are currently being used as desiccants in air conditioners to lower energy consumption.

Image Credit: framergy

COVID-19, which travels outside of the body in respiratory droplets, has been shown to linger longer and travel more distance than other viruses, rendering places where people seek medical treatment a risk.  No indoor places have been harder hit by COVID-19 contagion than hospitals and elderly care facilities, and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies have also shown that air conditioners can help to spread the disease.  The addition of MOFs to air conditioners can already save energy costs, but an extra light strip could help ‘protect indoor spaces from the virus’.

The material successfully destroyed COVID-19 by decapitating the crown, or spike proteins, puncturing the lipid membrane, and spilling out the RNA contents.  The MOF was dispersed on a coupon and exposed to viral culture COVID-19.  The coupon was then exposed to UV-C light for thirty minutes, far shorter than the three hours being prescribed for just UV-C inactivation of COVID-19.

The sample was tested with Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction, commonly referred to as PCR, and virus virility by Tissue Culture Infection Dose (TCID) assay.  The latter measures the potential of the virus in initiating an infection and helped the team deduct that photocatalysis was targeting more than just RNA. TCID50 showed that AYRSORBTM T125 was highly effective in preventing COVID-19 from initiating infection, and achieved over 99% virus inactivation. 

Ray O.K. Ozdemir, the COO, said “I wanted to couple the water uptake of our MOFs with something to help fight this pandemic.  So, we used ‘radical’ chemistry where we apply UV light, creating the energy needed to destroy the virus.”

Unlike direct ultra violet light, which only targets the virus’ RNA in the nucleocapsid, MOF-based photocatalysis unleashes huge amounts of hydroxyl radicals which damage the exterior organic material, like the spike proteins that allow the virus to attach itself to human lungs.    The power of these hydroxyl radicals is already being used by framergy to destroy perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, sometimes referred to as ‘forever chemicals’, in drinking water, and the Company was recently awarded a Phase II grant for this technology by the US Environmental Protection Agency. 

Titanium MOFs, first invented in 2009 by CNRS in France and KRICT in South Korea, are proving to be extraordinary materials with usages ranging from sun blocks to hydrogen catalysis.  With this breakthrough, any negative air pressure device such as an air purifier or respiratory mask can be used to destroy COVID-19. framergy is the pioneer in commercializing MOFs, which are distributed by Strem Chemicals.   The Company is working with its partners in the US, Europe and Japan to conduct a whole suite of tests to prove out the efficiency of MOF-based COVID-19 photocatalysis.

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