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Cambridge and Israeli scientists create a revolutionary air filter to capture and destroy coronavirus particles.

Cambridge and Israeli scientists create a revolutionary air filter to capture and destroy coronavirus particles.

A team of scientists and engineers from Cambridge, UK and Ma’alot-Tarshiha, Israel, have developed a revolutionary new carbon-based material that captures and destroys an animal coronavirus, a close relative of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

The Active Virus Filter in the form of a thin carbon nanotube mat (TorStranTM) has the filtration and air permeability properties which allow it to capture free virus molecules and those contained in airborne aerosolised droplets. Both filtration and virus disruption take place at the same time allowing the filter to reduce the risk of infection by removing contamination from the air. We envisage it being particularly useful in confined situations such as emergency vehicles, hospitals, transportation, waiting areas and wards.

Research at the University of Cambridge involved the Department of Engineering, the Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy and the Department of Pathology.

In the UK, the project team is led by Q-Flo who are delivering a broad Innovate UK-funded grant. Rapid response from Q-Flo and Innovate UK ( allowed some funds to be switched to this project and have resulted in proof of principle being achieved within a remarkably short time. “Our challenge now is to turn our membrane (TorStran) into an effective Active Virus Filter Module.” said Martin Pick COO of Q-Flo.

In Israel, development and manufacturing efforts are being led by Meir Hefetz, Tortech CTO. He comments “We are throwing our full resources behind the project. “We are meeting the initial challenges of achieving the correct properties in order to move on to practical scale-up issues.”

James Elliott, a Professor in the Department of Materials Science, said “I’m very excited that this new application of carbon-based filter materials developed initially within our lab can be rapidly prototyped and tested to help with shortages of PPE protective equipment due to the Coronavirus pandemic.”

Prof. Alan Windle FRS, one of the original inventors of the process to make the nanotube material at Cambridge University, comments: “The original objective of the process was to make ultra-strong conductive fibres for a wide range of applications. The fact that the nanotubes compressed into an otherwise randomly oriented mat makes an excellent filter for virus-bearing airborne particles of moisture are suddenly very important as the world faces its current COVID 19 crisis.”

Adam Boies, Reader in Nanomaterials and Aerosol Engineering in the Department of Engineering, said “The unique capability of the Active Virus Filter to both effectively filter and destroy the virus opens up new possibilities for reducing airborne viral loading. Ultimately, it will also allow for extended filter lifetimes or reusable filtration media which do not degrade with successive cleaning.”

Ian Goodfellow, Professor of Virology in the Department of Pathology: “The application of a low power to the Active Virus Filter was able to completely inactivate trapped animal coronaviruses. The ability to incorporate this type of technology into PPE and air handling systems is an exciting opportunity to provide an additional tool to protect people against COVID-19.”

Dr. Shuki Yeshurun, Joint CEO of Q-Flo and Tortech sums up progress and points the way to the future deployment of this potentially life-saving product: “Our teams in Israel and the UK, including colleagues at Cambridge University, have worked flat out over the past few weeks to demonstrate the effectiveness of the TorStran Active Virus Filter in catching and ‘killing’ the virus. We are looking for partners who can work with us and move at speed to bring Active Virus Filter units into service.”

Q-Flo Limited and Tortech Nano Fibers Ltd are both members of the Plasan Sasa Group.


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