Photo Credit: NIAID-RML / flickr
This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19. isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab.

Technology developed by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel in partnership with Rice University in Houston, Texas will be used to develop and manufacture products for filtration systems, including those that filter airborne COVID-19 particles.

The technology is being commercialized by LIGC Application Ltd., a company at the forefront of laser-induced graphene (LIG) commercialization. The Hubei Forbon Technology Co. Ltd. (300387.SZ) company in Wuhan, China provided $3 million in funding for the venture.

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“For the past five years, our lab at the BGU Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research has focused on the development of LIG, specifically in antimicrobial filtration and environmental applications,” says Dr. Chris Arnusch. “We are excited to be commercializing our technology in a number of air filtration products for COVID-19 and other specialized filtration applications.”

“In the absence of better filtration technology, the indoor spaces where we used to spend most of our ‘normal’ life—schools, stores and workplaces due to COVID-19 present a real risk,” said LIGC Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Yehuda Borenstein. “This technology will provide cleaner and more breathable air with lower energy and maintenance costs and virtually silent sound levels.”

Active air filters made with LIG are designed to damage and destroy organic particles including bacteria, mold spores and viruses at the micron and sub-micron levels when passed through a microscopic network of porous graphene.

The scalable approach is produced using commercially available CO2 lasers to create a conductive graphene mesh. The graphene mesh heats, electrocutes and neutralizes organic particles and pathogens with revolutionary efficiency compared to active carbon filters, UV-C and fiber HEPA filters that are used widely in schools, offices, homes, ships, and other facilities. Aircraft are already equipped with HEPA filters that remove viruses and bacteria from the circulated cabin air, but at high energy and maintenance costs.

Since the LIGC filter uses low voltage electricity to eliminate bacteria and viruses, lower density filtration media can be used, resulting in significantly less energy consumption. In addition, LIGC active filters require lower maintenance than other filters and are safe for the operator during maintenance and replacement.

“To understand the technology, imagine the porous graphene is an electric fence that functions like a mosquito zapper at the submicron level,” Bornstein said. “When an airborne bacteria or virus touches the graphene surface, it is shocked at a low voltage and currents that are safe for use.

“While 2020 has highlighted the importance of protecting against airborne viruses, the post-pandemic world will likely show us how important it is to do so without increasing energy costs past the point of affordability.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.