Researchers Alter Viscous Disinfectants into Breathable Mist

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Researchers from University of California – San Diego developed a device capable of atomizing viscous disinfectants

The new device created by a team of researchers from UC San Diego works on a range of disinfectants such as Triethylene glycol (TEG), which has never been atomized before. TEG is a colorless odorless viscous liquid used by the oil and gas industry to “dehydrate” natural gas. The devise was capable of atomizing disinfectants onto environmental surfaces contaminated with bacteria. Moreover, the device effectively eliminated 100 percent of bacteria that is majorly responsible for hospital-acquired infections. Highly multi-drug resistant strains of bacteria including K. pneumonia were completely eliminated by the atomized bleach solution of ethanol and TEG. Dr. Monika Kumaraswamy, physician scientist at VA San Diego Healthcare System and lead author of the paper stated, “Cleaning and disinfecting environmental surfaces in healthcare facilities is a critical infection prevention and control practice.”

The device was built by using off-the-shelf smartphone components that produce acoustic waves through a process called atomization. These components in phone function to filter wireless cellular signals and identify and filter voice and data information. The components generated high frequency sound waves ranging from 100 million to 10 billion hertz that enabled to create fluid capillary waves. These fluid capillary waves emit droplets and generate mist. The technology offers wide variety of potential applications and could be used to deliver a whole new class of medicines to patients via inhalers. The research was published in Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology on May 26, 2018.

Mechanical or ultrasound-based methods are currently used to atomize fluids. However, these methods are not effective with viscous fluids as they require too much power. Moreover, these methods cause break down of some of the fluids’ active ingredients and require expensive equipment. These drawbacks are eliminated in the new method as smart phone components use Lithium Niobate. This is owing to the property of Lithium Niobate to offer energy efficient and reliable ultrasonic vibrations, which in turn facilitates atomization of even the most viscous fluids. The process leads to formation of a fine mist that drifts in the air for more than an hour.

 

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