A spray-on compound invented by UBC Okanagan researcher Seyyedarash Haddadi greatly improves the protection of surgical face masks against COVID-19. 

A UBC Okanagan researcher has invented a new low-cost compound that greatly enhances the protection of face masks against COVID-19.

The spray-on compound created by Seyyedarash Haddadi is said to reduce transmission of active pathogens, including COVID-19 viral particles and bacteria, by more than 99.99%.

The coating, made from a graphene oxide and silver combination, has received Health Canada approval and is already being incorporated into millions of face masks for sale worldwide.  

“After announcing our invention, we heard from many companies around the world who are interested in partnering with us to test and use this coating on their fabrics,” Haddadi said in a release from Mitacs, a non-profit government-funded organization that helps academic researchers solve business challenges.  

For his work, Haddadi on Tuesday received the Mitacs & National Research Council-Industrial Research Assistance Program Award for Commercialization. The hybrid event was held in-person at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa and online. 

Haddadi, from Iran, is a post-doctoral fellow at UBC Okanagan working under the supervision of Mohammad Arjmand of the School of Engineering.

Haddadi was working on anti-corrosion coatings at the time of the pandemic’s onset in early 2020 and quickly pivoted his research toward devising an antiviral material for use on face masks.

“The final product is made from a silver-coated graphene oxide sheet, less than one nanometer in thickness, that we disperse in water and then spray on the surface of fabrics,” he said.

The spray is applied on the inside of an average four-ply mask, so nothing is on the exterior of the mask, Haddadi said. The odourless coating involves no solvents or toxic chemicals and is safe for consumer use, Health Canada says. 

Only a small amount of the coating is needed to effectively deactivate pathogens, Haddadi said. “One gram of material is sufficient to coat 300 masks, making this a very affordable large-scale solution,” he said.