Killing Them Smartly: New Tech to Beat Pathogens

Combating disease-causing microorganisms can be a cyclical journey fraught with defeats and resistance. The virulence of different strains of viruses, and the unpredictability of outbreaks, are all challenges that call for innovative solutions to keep such episodes at bay.

In the wake of various epidemics in recent times, namely the coronavirus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Mexican human swine flu, chemical and biological engineering expert Prof King Lun Yeung has developed novel materials and technologies to tackle airborne diseases such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and waterborne microbes such as E. coli and legionella pneumophila bacteria. At the heart of Prof Yeung’s latest technologies lie three key guiding principles—minimizing the number of ingredients used to enhance safety; administering disinfectants in very low doses over time to ensure effective sterilization and reduce impact on the environment; as well as engineering responsiveness to environmental cues such as human touch and contaminants.

The underlying principles have already spawned a wide range of products, such as smart antimicrobial coating and colloids, purifiers that can perform lasting air disinfection and possibly lower the risk of recontamination, a portable solution to sterilize tap water, as well as hydrogels that can suppress malodorous compounds in sewers, drainage systems and sludge.

Seeing off his lab results into the market, Prof Yeung will focus on further innovations that can continue to safeguard both human health and the environment.

Prof King Lun Yeung is Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering as well as Environment and Sustainability. His research interests span disciplines such as biomedical engineering, environmental pollution treatment, as well as nanoporous and nanostructured materials.

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