The liquid gallium adhered to the fibers as the ethanol evaporated. (Credit: Vi Khanh Truong)

A team of researchers used liquid gallium to create an antiviral and antimicrobial coating and tested it on a range of fabrics, including facemasks. The coating adhered more strongly to fabric than some conventional metal coatings and eradicated 99 percent of several common pathogens within five minutes.

The researchers placed liquid gallium (Ga) into an ethanol solution and used sound waves — a process known as sonication — to create Ga nanoparticles. The nanoparticle solution was then spray coated onto the fabric, and the Ga adhered to the fibers as the ethanol evaporated.

Then the researchers dipped the Ga-coated fabric into a copper sulfate solution, creating a spontaneous galvanic replacement reaction. The reaction deposits copper onto the fabric, creating a coating of liquid metal copper alloy nanoparticles.

To test the coated fabric’s antimicrobial properties, the team exposed the fabric to three common microbes: Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Candida albicans. These microbes grow aggressively on noncoated fabrics. The copper alloy coated fabric eradicated over 99 percent of the pathogens within five minutes, which was significantly more effective than control samples coated with only copper.

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