High-throughput laser-based manufacturing technique for pathogen-resistant engineered surfaces

H. Ding
University of Iowa,
United States

Keywords: high throughput, laser surface processing, pathogen-resistant surface


This project will develop a low-cost, high-throughput, laser-based manufacturing technique to produce novel pathogen-resistant and disinfection-receptive engineered surfaces. The strong need for pathogen-resistant surfaces has emerged as COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) rampages across the globe, which has resulted in the largest number of cases and daily growing casualties in the USA. The possibility of recurrent pandemics from mutated severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus or other viruses (e.g., influenza) is a real threat. SARS-CoV-2, among other pathogens, is transmitted by breathing in viruses suspended in aerosol form or by touching surfaces on which droplets containing viruses have deposited. This project will enhance understanding the fundamental mechanisms of surface virus survivability and manufacturing pathogen-resistant surfaces, which are crucial for mitigating future pandemics and provide quick prevention response. It will also provide strategies for disinfection or severely curtailing surface survival times of pathogens by engineering high-touch surfaces in potentially high viral-load enclosures such as public and private transport vehicles, schools, hospitals, and eldercare facilities. An important secondary benefit is the reduced prevalence of volatile organic chemicals, known to exacerbate many negative health effects. This project will achieve its goals by bringing together an interdisciplinary team of engineers, virologists, and infectious disease experts with deep and wide-ranging experience and expertise in the fundamental science and manufacturing components required to produce novel, multi-functional engineered surfaces. This proposed effort has the potential to reduce laser-texturing time of pathogen-resistant surfaces by a factor of 30,000 and will allow processing capability of large surface areas compared to existing processes. The cumulative global market of nanostructured metal alloy applications is growing rapidly and will become a $2 billon dollar market by 2023. This work will reduce processing costs significantly making laser processing competitive in the market. The surface engineering will be guided by a deep dive into the physical and chemical mechanisms that determine the survivability of pathogens on surfaces with different materials and surface textures. Three integrated research thrusts form the backbone of this work: (1) fundamental science of virus viability and disinfection mechanisms on surfaces; (2) machine learning for model assimilation, and prediction of the complex relationship between virus survival, surface characteristics, environmental factors and manufacturing process control parameters; (3) a laser-based, low-cost high-throughput manufacturing technique for engineering pathogen-resistant surfaces. The first two thrusts will provide the fundamental knowledge and a model-based design tool for the novel manufacturing task in the third thrust, yielding a robust scientific foundation to direct manufacturing processes to address a timely and urgent problem.