Queen's Policy Engagement

Self-disinfecting surfaces could help protect us from COVID-19 – here’s how

Dr Louise Carson, Professor Colin McCoy and Dr Jessica Moore look at the role of photosensitisers in developing self-disinfecting surfaces in the fight against the pandemic.

Self-disinfecting surfaces could help protect us from COVID-19 – here’s how

Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects (such as door handles) can help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. This is more relevant now than ever.

One way that COVID-19 can spread is when people who have the virus leave infected droplets on surfaces after sneezing or coughing. Studies have found SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) can survive on some surfaces for days – particularly those made of plastic or metal.

If another person touches an infected surface, and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth before having washed or sanitised their hands, it’s possible they could become infected. This is why handwashing has become such a focus during the pandemic.

But at Queen’s University Belfast, we’re developing another protective solution: self-disinfecting surfaces. Our team has created materials that can kill infection-causing microbes upon contact, helping to prevent the transmission of contagious diseases.

The materials contain substances called photosensitisers. All that they need to work is light and oxygen. When exposed to these, photosensitisers produce molecules called reactive oxygen species – highly reactive forms of oxygen that can cause fatal damage to microbes that have landed on the material. The source of light could be something as simple as sunlight – an abundant, freely available resource – though artificial lighting or light from a specialised source (such as a fibre optics and LEDs) can also be used.

To continue reading, please click here. 

Article originally appeared in The Conversation.


The featured image has been used courtesy of a Creative Commons license. 



Professor Colin McCoy is the Head of the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University. Colin leads three themes within Biomaterials and Drug Delivery in the School of Pharmacy; polymeric medical devices, photoactive biomaterials and sensor development.

Dr Jessica Moore is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University Belfast.

Dr Louise Carson is a lecturer in the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University Belfast.



Dr Louise Carson
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Dr Louise Carson is a lecturer in the School of Pharmacy at Queen's University Belfast. Louise's research addresses issues associated with the use of implantable medical devices such as catheters, joint prosthesis, pacemakers, implantable biosensors.

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