New Tech Will Disinfect Everything and Help Stop Infectious Diseases

Nanosafety researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health have developed a new intervention to fight infectious disease by more effectively disinfecting the air around us, our food, our hands, and whatever else harbors the microbes that make us sick.

They used a nano-enabled platform developed at the center to create and deliver tiny, aerosolized water nonodroplets containing non-toxic, nature-inspired disinfectants wherever desired.

ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng – Inactivation of Hand Hygiene-Related Pathogens Using Engineered Water Nanostructures

They take water and turn it into an engineered water nanoparticle, which carries its deadly payload, primarily nontoxic, nature-inspired antimicrobials, and kills microorganisms on surfaces and in the air.

You need 12 volts DC, and it is combined with electrospray and ionization to turn water into a nanoaerosol, in which these engineered nanostructures are suspended in the air. These water nanoparticles have unique properties because of their small size and also contain reactive oxygen species. These are hydroxyl radicals, peroxides, and are similar to what nature uses in cells to kill pathogens. These nanoparticles, by design, also carry an electric charge, which increases surface energy and reduces evaporation. That means these engineered nanostructures can remain suspended in air for hours. When the charge dissipates, they become water vapor and disappear.

They place nature-inspired antimicrobials into the engineered water nanostructures, their antimicrobial potency increases dramatically. But they do not use huge quantities of antimicrobials. They use about 1 percent or 2 percent by volume. Most of the engineered water nanostructure is still water.

Flu and tuberculosis are airborne diseases, respiratory diseases, which cause millions of deaths a year. Foodborne diseases also kill 500,000 people annually and cost our economy billions of dollars.


Hand hygiene is a critical public health issue associated with disease transmission worldwide. Here, a nanotechnology-based approach has been employed to enhance hand hygiene using engineered water nanostructures (EWNS) synthesized by electrospray and ionization of antimicrobial aqueous solutions. The EWNS possess unique properties: have a tunable size in the nanoscale, are electrically charged, which results in a lifespan of hours in room conditions, and can carry both antimicrobial agents and reactive oxygen species (ROS) from ionization of water. More importantly, EWNS are highly mobile, can be directed toward a surface of interest utilizing their electric charge, and can inactivate pathogens by delivering active ingredients (AIs) and ROS. In this study, a variety of AIs commonly used for hand sanitization and food safety, such as hydrogen peroxide, citric acid, lysozyme, and nisin, were utilized to synthesize various EWNS-based nanosanitizers and inactivate hand hygiene-related pathogens. A 0.5 min exposure to various EWNS-based nanosanitizers reduced Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and bacteriophage MS2 by ∼3, 1, and 2 log, respectively. More importantly, such an aerosol-based nanocarrier platform, because of its targeted delivery manner, utilizes only nanograms of “nature-inspired” antimicrobials and leaves behind no chemical byproducts, making it an efficient approach for hand sanitization.

21 thoughts on “New Tech Will Disinfect Everything and Help Stop Infectious Diseases”

  1. No, I agree with you, but maybe didn’t come across that way. The hygene hypothesis has a lot of merit. At the same time, the rest of the home environment needs to be considered, where you can be exposed to all sorts of coodies.

  2. I realize you were just guessing and not using science but many studies indicate the “hygiene hypothesis” is true and a example of that is the dishwasher. But as almost all things, it is just a theory and not absolutely proven to be true.

  3. Look up Low Temperature Plasma Generation and Sterilization. It’s a whole world of sub-micro to fractional millisecond pulses at various HVDC thru microwave frequencies. They all make a “soup” out of H2O. LaTerTaTeRz!

  4. It’s also BAD Advertising…. The making of ozone and weird fractional reaction species is merely being “called” Nano-stuff. Nothing new here! I don’t mind being wrong if you can explain the difference between THIS and WHAT I’ve described. Yay! Let’s leaRN zOmEtHINg!

  5. O3 + Water Spray + Lo Temp Plasma exhaust is NOT NEW.
    Been watching it for years. It has always been supposed to save the world. Could’ve been bought on amazon for $400-ish long ago. A clever 10-year old could build it for his mom. Why is it not on AS-SEEN-ON-TV shelves??? Low-volt power plus water is all that is needed to make the circuitry happy and make the juice – EASY!

  6. So how, in chemical terms, does UV light kill microbes? There are a couple of different pathways, but a significant one is that UV is absorbed by oxygen resulting in excitation of the oxygen molecule, leading to combination into ozone.

    Ozone is a known biocide, with the greatest effect being caused when the ozone is absorbed into surface water and water droplets, leading to a solution of ozone which itself reacts with water to form hydroxide and peroxide ions.

    Likewise, UV is absorbed by water leading to separation into hydroxide ions, free hydrogen ion, and recombination into both ozone and peroxide ions.

    So… the end result is UV -> moisture droplets containing hydroxide, peroxide and ozone.

    Which is exactly the same end result that everyone is saying is inferior to using UV. This is an (apparently) more controlled way of doing exactly the same thing.

  7. It was the “engineered water nanostructures” bit; That really does sound uncomfortably like the supposed basis of homeopathy.

  8. I don’t know. Reactive oxygen and electrical charges seem legit to me. They both have potential to disrupt cell membranes (I think?). What I’m less convinced about is effectiveness against viruses.

  9. I don’t think they mean to add it to drinking water. This is intended as a water-based disinfectant spray, as I understand.

    (edit: Also, they’re not adding nanomaterials to water. The water spray droplets are the nanomaterial.)

  10. UV is simple, safe, effective and can be relatively cheap. It’s surprising it’s not much more commonly used or mandated by codes.

  11. correct, I wasn’t arguing for “Hygene”. Bacteria, like anything, in moderation, is good. Our bodies have far more microorganisms than cells, so something must be going on there.

  12. If you can find narrowband 222nm Far-UVC excimer sterilizer systems, these provide a microbial kill upon surgical suites in an exposure period measuring seconds rather than the better part of an hour.

    A lamp with a low level continuous output for open space decontamination is designed to be safe for human exposure while deactivating airborne pathogens on-the-fly. These are skin safe and harmless to eyes due to non-penetration of the water film layer.

  13. +1. When I read “engineered water nanoparticle” I read “oh, another bioweapon research project masking as something useful”

  14. Adding any nanomaterials to water without a long and extensive testing program is, well, a bad idea. Even worse, there is a universal method for sterilising water, air and surfaces: powerful UV light at around 260nm that quickly breaks any DNA, even in hardened forms such as spores. Mercury lamps provide that: at low cost and high power, high enough to sterilise flow in sewers. If volume saturation is required, similar lamps (or other sources) can generate ozone that kills everything (one should not breathe ozone) by oxidative stress. Cold plasma is also used, though it is a bit dearer and less potent.

  15. not really re: dishwashing , though I think you mean living in super-clean environments in general (Hygene Hypothesis). You can have a dishwasher and live on a farm, for instance, or have kids play in the dirt.

  16. The other side of the coin. To much disinfection can be harmful.
    Example – A dishwasher cleans dishes so well children in families who use them don’t get exposed to enough germs to build up a immunity to them.

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