Antimicrobial filters for hospital air and water systems

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Civil Environmental and Geomatic Eng


Most of the world's population is now living in cities and travelling more. As a result we are more likely to come into contact with infections that we would not have been exposed to just a few decades ago due to interactions with more people. The environment plays an important role in the transmission of some infections and it is possible to reduce the transmission of such disease by better filtration of water and air. Some filtration systems are currently used which physically stop pathogens such as bacteria. However these systems cannot stop virus particles, are expensive, require frequent maintenance and careful disposal.

The aim of this project is to design one air and one water filter which will actively kill bacteria and viruses, thereby reducing their numbers in the environment. These filters will require less maintenance and be inexpensive to produce. During the project, we will first test the antimicrobial effect of a variety of nanoparticles. These will then be modified chemically so that they can be incorporated into materials that are suitable for water and air filtration. The filters containing the antimicrobial nanoparticles will be produced using a new EPSRC funded spinning technology developed at UCL. Once we have produced the antimicrobial filtration materials, we will test their ability to kill viruses in air and bacteria in water. We will test filters with different concentrations of antimicrobial nanoparticles and with different depths. We will also make sure that the filters are effective at flow rates that are used in the real world.

The antimicrobial filters will be of most interest to the healthcare industry in the first instance, but they will also be relevant to busy public buildings (such as schools and care homes) and transport vehicles (such as airplanes). Furthermore, the filters will be capable of oxidising non-biological materials, like tar and pollution particulates and will improve air quality in a range of indoor environments. During the project we will be collaborating with industrial partners (including Pall Corporation, the world's biggest filtration company) and clinicians to ensure that we produce a viable product. At the end of the project, the technology will be validated and ready for scale-up production and we plan to apply for further funding for a collaborative project with industry in order to do this.

Planned Impact

UK and international industry and the economy
Industry will benefit from the proposed project on a number of levels. Initially, they will be involved in the proposed research project (2-3 years). This involvement may lead to new collaborations with academics and the exchange of knowledge. In the longer term, the current project is likely to lead onto further research project to scale-up the technology (4-6 years). Finally, the IP generated in this and follow-on projects is likely to lead to the manufacture of actively antimicrobial filters which will be of economic benefit to the companies involved, UCL and the economy more widely (7-10 years).

Policy makers
The research undertaken will be of interest to UK and international policy makers who are involved in the shaping of policy for the reduction of infectious disease transmission in the hospital environment (7-10 years). Research outcomes are likely to lead to an improvement in evidence-based policy to reduce the spread of infections including healthcare associated infections and antimicrobial resistance. One example would be in helping to refine the UK Government's 5-year AMR strategy.

Healthcare providers, healthcare staff and the NHS
Healthcare providers will benefit from the research outcomes in the longer term (7-10 years). The proposed project will lead to IP and is likely to lead to the manufacture of antimicrobial filters which reduce the numbers of pathogenic microorganisms in hospital air and water systems. The installation of such filters will reduce the risk of transmission of infections from the environment within the hospital setting, which will in turn lead to better patient outcomes, shorter hospital stays and a decrease in costs. The costs will become lower both directly, though lower maintenance costs of filtration equipment, and indirectly through better patient outcomes.

Patients and the public
In the long term (10-20 years), hospital patients and the public will benefit from the technology developed. The antimicrobial filters will reduce the numbers of pathogenic organisms in hospital air and water systems which will, in turn, reduce infection rates, hospital stays and improve patient outcomes. Furthermore, the technology is very likely to rolled out further to other environments such as transport vehicles (e.g. airline industry) and public spaces such as schools.


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Perera AS (2018) Polymer-Magnetic Composite Fibers for Remote-Controlled Drug Release. in ACS applied materials & interfaces

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Matharu R (2018) Antimicrobial activity of tellurium-loaded polymeric fiber meshes in Journal of Applied Polymer Science

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Matharu RK (2020) Microstructure and antibacterial efficacy of graphene oxide nanocomposite fibres. in Journal of colloid and interface science

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Heseltine P (2018) Developments in Pressurized Gyration for the Mass Production of Polymeric Fibers in Macromolecular Materials and Engineering

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Eranka Illangakoon U (2017) Gyrospun antimicrobial nanoparticle loaded fibrous polymeric filters. in Materials science & engineering. C, Materials for biological applications

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Matharu RK (2020) Viral filtration using carbon-based materials. in Medical devices & sensors

Title Project leaflet 
Description A leaflet describing the work going being done on the project and its impact. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The leaflet was distributed at the stakeholder event held on 23rd July 2018. It was also distributed at the ASM Microbe 2018 conference by the project team. 
Title Project video 
Description A video about the research project and its impact. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The video was shown at the stakeholder event on 23rd July 2018 and has been uploaded onto YouTube. There are also links to the video on the websites of the project partners. The video has been viewed 215 times as of 4th March 2019. 
Description We have developed and characterised some novel antimicrobial nanoparticle preparations. We have assessed the antimicrobial properties of the above antimicrobial nanoparticle preparations. The nanoparticles were then immobilised into polymer fibres to make a filter. The filters have been tested to assess whether they kill bacterial species during water filtration. We have shown that a few seconds of filtration can result in the kill of over 90 % of bacterial cells in the water. We have now tested a selection of intermetallic nanoparticle preparations for antiviral activities on two virus strains and found them to be effective in suspension.
Exploitation Route Our findings will lead onto further research in the fields of antimicrobial filtration, antimicrobial nanoparticles and pressurised gyration processes.

We hope that the technology will be taken forward by an industrial manufacturer. We are currently in negotiation with a number of possible industrial partners to take the technology forward after the end of the project.
Sectors Aerospace

Defence and Marine


Food and Drink




including Industrial Biotechology

Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description The industrial members of our advisory panel benefited from detailed discussions about the work we have done. We plan to apply for some funding in a similar context and will use the links we made with industry during the project to collaborate further on this. We are currently exploring developing and adaption the technology with an industry partner. This will likely take place as a consultancy project.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Education,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic

Description Project stakeholder event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact 48 stakeholders, including industry, NHS and academic staff, attended the event on the afternoon of Monday 23rd July at UCL. The event showcased the project through presentations and video and leaflets and included a discussion with the audience about the application of our research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017