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Research and Recovery

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented operational challenge for the healthcare and Medtech industries. Over the last two years, thousands of initiatives have evolved to support the public-health response to the coronavirus worldwide.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has funded 3,600 research projects since the start of the pandemic, from mental health to sanitation. Their Research for Recovery infographic illustrates how UK research is finding solutions to COVID-related public challenges and driving communities towards post-pandemic recovery.

Some key statistics highlighted by the infographic include;

  • £554 million has been invested in new projects since the start of the pandemic
  • 34,000 litres of hand sanitiser was produced using modified equipment earmarked for solar technologies at Swansea University
  • 20 minutes is the time it takes to decontaminate ambulances using an ozone-based rapid release gas treatment created in South Wales
  • 50kg of medical supplies were delivered from Land’s End to the Isles of Scilly by drone

Keeping people safe through sanitation

Deactivating live coronavirus: helping public services reduce the risk of transmission

The pandemic prompted an urgent need to find more efficient ways of cleaning infected surfaces, spaces and equipment and the sterilisation of ambulances was vital to curbing the spread of the virus. After transporting a patient suspected of having COVID-19, an ambulance cannot be utilised until it is fully sanitised, which in some instances could take up to 2 hours. 

Thanks to a team of microwave engineers, infectious disease specialists and polymer scientists, it now takes only 5 minutes to safely deactivate live coronavirus in community spaces and vehicles using antenna beamsteering and radar principles. The entirety of an ambulance can be decontaminated using an ozone-based rapid release gas treatment in just 20 minutes, meaning it would be out of action for shorter periods, reducing pressure on emergency services.

The new approach follows the general principle commonly used in a kitchen microwave to produce heat for sterilisation. Surfaces can be rapidly heated and sterilised using electromagnetic waves, antennas, sensor beacons and a liquid layer.

Not only is this technique time-efficient and labour-saving, it is also far safer; the disinfection process can be achieved from a safe distance, reducing the contamination risk.

Rapid response accelerating sanitation

The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised the importance of hand sanitiser, promoting disinfectant gel as an inexpensive, widely applicable response measure and an essential preventive agent against coronavirus disease.

A volunteer team in South Wales modified equipment earmarked for solar technologies to supply much-needed sanitiser to the front line by producing a groundbreaking 34,000 litres of hand sanitiser for hospitals, care homes, and schools. The SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre at Swansea University repurposed funding and brought together a team of more than 30 volunteers to provide frontline community support in the fight against COVID-19. 

The volunteers also modified some of their existing equipment – primarily used for research into solar technologies – to produce 5000 litres of hand sanitiser per week that was distributed to the NHS, care homes, homeless hostels and carers and maintenance workers in at-risk settings.

The team devised a multi-head bottling apparatus with the ability to fill a 5-litre bottle in 20 seconds rather than 60. When stocks were running low, collaboration with local brewers used unsold beer to produce a WHO certified 80% alcohol sanitiser, transported in Electric Vehicles powered by the university’s active buildings to minimise admissions.

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