Anti-viral jackets with pockets that protect against coronavirus could be made from an experimental fabric in development in Tayside.
Researchers from the James Hutton Institute outside Dundee are working with businesses CelluComp in Fife and Halley Stevensons in the city on a new line of personal protective equipment (PPE) that is reusable and recyclable.
The team plan to develop prototypes in nine months that could change the way PPE is used and disposed of.
Research funders Innovate UK have awarded them almost half a million pounds to pursue their goal.
Clean clothes: Killing the virus on the move
Jimmy Campbell, 51, managing director of Halley Stevensons, said: “CelluComp and Hutton are developing the anti-viral part of it.
“We’re looking at how we can apply this to a fabric that is multi-use and can be recycled.
“It could go into jackets and gloves. There are lots of potential end uses of it – not just medical.”
He said the company’s waxed cotton product mostly went into jackets, but they had been working with the NHS on producing scrubs since the start of the pandemic.
“There could be pocket linings where you’ve got your hands, even hoods,” he added.
“If you’re in and out of supermarkets, with your car keys, does it help that you’ve got an anti-viral finish in your pocket that’s durable to washing? Maybe so.”
Quarter of Scottish beaches polluted with dumped PPE
Project leader Dr Andrew Love, 44, James Hutton Institute, said people were throwing away 129 billion disposable masks every month worldwide.
As many as a quarter of all Scottish beaches have PPE dumped on them, he added.
He said discarded PPE will break into fragments over time and can enter the food chain, which can have an impact on the environment, wildlife and human health.
“It’s a local and a global problem,” he said.
Disposable masks don’t actively kill viruses or bacteria, he added.
“While they do offer a degree of protection there is a possibility that viruses can be trapped within these materials and potentially go back into the environment.”
He said the project aimed to produce a highly absorbent material that didn’t “wet out” when breathed through.
Dr Love added: “You want to have material which can capture the moisture, captures the viruses and eventually kill them.”
He said the fabric could be used in the fight against coronavirus and also protect against any future virus outbreak.
A big win for the planet.”
Emma Leel, litter manager at Zero Waste Scotland, said single-use face coverings polluted streets, coast, countryside and waterways.
“We welcome new innovations which reduce our reliance on single-use items,” she said.
“Opting for reusable face coverings instead is a big win for the planet.”