The spike proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus become trapped when they come in contact with silicon, gold and copper, according to a study which also found that electric fields can be used to destroy these proteins, likely killing the virus.
The spike protein is used by the SARS-CoV-2 virus to enter and infect the human cells.
The study, published in the journal Chemical Science, found that the spike proteins of coronaviruses attached and became stuck to certain types of surfaces. "Coronaviruses have spike proteins on their periphery that allow them to penetrate host cells and cause infection and we have found these proteins becomes stuck to the surface of silicon, gold and copper through a reaction that forms a strong chemical bond," said study lead researcher Nadim Darwish, from Curtin University in Australia.
"We believe these materials can be used to capture coronaviruses by being used in air filters, as a coating for benches, tables and walls or in the fabric of wipe cloths and face masks," Darwish said.
Capturing coronavirus in this ways would prevent it from reaching and infecting more people, the researchers said.
The study also found the coronavirus could be detected and destroyed using electrical pulses.
"We discovered that electric current can pass through the spike protein and because of this, the protein can be electrically detected," said study co-author Essam Dief, a PHD candidate at Curtin University.
"In the future, this finding can be translated to involve applying solution to a mouth or nose swab and testing it in a tiny electronic device able to electrically detect the proteins of the virus. This would provide instant, more sensitive and accurate Covid testing," Dief said.
By applying electrical pulses, the researchers found the spike protein's structure is changed and at certain magnitude of the pulses, the protein is destroyed, thereby potentially deactivating coronaviruses.
"So, by incorporating materials such as copper or silicon in air filters, we can potentially capture and consequently stop the spread of the virus," Dief said.
"Also importantly, by incorporating electric fields through air filters for example, we also expect this to deactivate the virus," the scientist added.