Shifting Goalposts: Advanced Materials to Combat COVID-19

Anurag Roy, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Cornwall TR10 9FE, U.K.

Interestingly, the use of virus-derived protein assemblies represents a new direction for the systematic use of a class of chemical synthesis for the precise patterning of materials. In contrast, now, there is an urgent requirement of new materials for the virus detection, disinfection or therapy (COVID-19). Amazing! If COVID-19 persists beyond this year, it is important to adjust various ongoing researches to address the important issues that COVID-19 imparts on our healthcare systems. 

Advanced Materials to combat COVID-19 | IAAM

COVID-19 pandemic challenges socioeconomic status in the worldwide community [1]. The materials science community can contribute significantly through latest science and technology research in the fight against COVID-19. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic requires multidisciplinary approaches to fight against deadly effect of pandemic. Various interdisciplinary subject experts such as docters, engineers, epidemiologists, mathematical modelers, public health scientist and research professionals need to collaborate with each other and deliver technology based solutions for mass community. Presently, society needs global scale efforts, which has multidisciplinary approach and capability of high impact results. Nanomaterials can be one of options as it can promote surface oxidation by releasing toxic ions and therefore preventing viral dissemination by inhibiting binding/penetration of viral particles. Nanomaterials works either by generation of reactive oxygen species and/or photothermal-based reactions such as heat that destroy viral membranes [2].

Advanced materials are critical to aid for developing antiviral drugs and sterilization and helpful in preventing the spread of the viruses.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility and Carbon Fiber Technology Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are using their materials science expertise to combat with COVID-19 more effectively. They are contributing fiber production, and additive manufacturing expertise and capabilities to produce tooling such as custom moulds for injection moulding to provide U.S. industry with the necessary resources to mass produce healthcare supplies in record time [3].

Advanced Materials Innovations may provides effectively customised design, specific coatings, fabrication, electronics and sensor based applications for various technology driven solutions to combat with COVID-19.

Science and innovation have capabilities to fight effectively with current pandemic-troubled world. Over the past decades it’s illustrated that materials innovations have impacted many facets of our society and changed the world. A coordinated effort is key for the development of innovative solutions in this global war on COVID-related issues and pandemics”, said Dr Koppens from Graphene Center at The University of Manchester. There are ample of scope to design and development of various materials for rapid COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment. This may cover,

  • Surface detection: adhesion and bioactivity of viruses.
  • Using antiviral materials: such as metal nanoparticles/grapheme etc.
  • Disinfection devices: made up of unique materials
  • Structure-property relationships, air and droplet management, and effectiveness of mask materials.
  • Rapid and cost effective point-of-care diagnostics.
  • Therapeutics: utilization of nanomaterials and its targeted drug delivery.
  • Personal protective equipment: designing of protective wearable things made up of nanomaterials.

Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in collaboration with St. Olavs Hospital are building on this affinity in developing a test method that uses the magnetic particles. The NTNU test uses iron oxide magnetic nanoparticles covered with a substance that strongly binds RNA. Once the magnetic nanoparticles are coated with the viral RNA, they can be removed from the solution easily using a magnet [4].

Advances in nanomaterials have led to the enhanced targeted drug delivery, specificity in gene transfection and improved imaging technology. This can be used to ameliorate diagnosis and treatment outcomes.

Dr. Thomas Rainey and his research team from Queensland University of Technology are stepping up work on a nanoparticle-removing new material they were developing for biodegradable anti-pollution masks. The cellulose nanofiber component is made from waste plant material such as sugar cane bagasse, and other agricultural waste products and is, therefore, biodegradable. It can be made using relatively simple equipment, and so can be quickly produced large quantities of the material.

Scientist from Institute of Chemical Technology, Republic of Korea, has developed pristine and PBASE-modified graphene-based field-effect transistor (FET)-based biosensing device for detecting SARS-CoV-2 in clinical sample [5].

Theranostic nanoparticles (i.e. lipid, polymer, dendrimer, gold, silver) can enhance the delivery of therapeutic drugs, ensure selective and specific delivery of siRNA, efficiently delivery peptide inhibitors, prevent coronavirus entry into cells, and stimulate cells' immune system. Theranostic nanomedicine holds great promise for clinical treatment although need further validation in cost-effectiveness and side effects of the treatment.

RashaItani et al. (2020) have shed light on the promising role of nanoparticles as effective carriers for therapeutics or immune modulators to help in fighting against COVID-19 [6].

Recent research advancement established that bioconjugated and biomimetic nanoparticles offer many exciting features for conventional treatments. At one side, nanoparticles coated with biomolecules (antibodies, peptides and aptamers) have substantial potential for pharmacokinetics and biodistribution functionality. While on anotherside, biomimetic approaches helps nanoparticles to reduce the possibilities of recognition and clearance by immune cells. Considering the harmful effect of COVID-19, extensive research required based on innovative idea, IPR and patented technology on immune related informations to get better solutions of therapeutics and diagnostics approaches [7].

Besides, Immune-targeted nanotherapeutics can be developed through their rational manufacture at the nanoscale level by designing nanomaterials that are able to amplify host’s immune response, for instance as adjuvants in the context of vaccination. It has been a difficult journey and we have had to deal with many unknowns, but I am really inspired by the way that scientists has pulled together though their innovation of new materials, fundamental research, or techniques for, studying the relationship between structure, properties, and uses of materials to combat COVID-19.


  1. Anshuman Mishra et al. Current Scenario of Coronavirus Pandemic. Adv.Mater. Lett. 2020; 11 (4): 20041494. DOI: 10.5185/amlett.2020.041494. 
  2. S. Talebian et al. Nat. Nanotechnol. (2020).
  3. Oak Ridge National Laboratory News, Clean Energy, May 4, 2020.
  5. ACS Nano 2020, 14(4) : 5135-5142.
  6. Theranostics 2020; 10(13):5932-5942.
  7. Mayuree Sengupta, H. Purushotham. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Related Coronavirus: A Patent Based View. Adv. Mater. Lett. 2020; 11 (5): 20051503.

September 8th, 2020 IAAM Blog International Association of Advanced Materials Leave a Comment

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