563 million tons of ore containing 8.1 million tons of copper. This is the total balance resources of copper deposits in Poland. Why are we writing about this? Because, half-jokingly and half-seriously, we can soon help the world to fight the coronavirus. Scientists from Purdue University in the American state of Indiana have just discovered that copper may to some extent be an additional weapon in the fight against the COVID-19 perpetrator!
How did this happen? After laboratory analysis of the behavior of bacteria on different surfaces, it was discovered that copper has amazing properties and kills them on direct contact, releasing ions that simply rupture the cell membranes of bacteria and, in the case of the virus, will destroy its DNA and RNA.
Thus, a virus that can survive for up to 72 hours on plastic surfaces will remain active for as little as four hours on copper surfaces. And it can be greatly improved, thanks to a new laser surface treatment.
The use of copper for health purposes dates back to ancient Egypt, but scientists have just rediscovered it. Copper has antimicrobial properties, which means it can kill microorganisms such as bacteria and also counteract viruses. For this to happen, however, direct contact must occur.
And it is this contact that the researchers want to improve by laser treating the surface, making it rougher. This is because the smooth texture of copper provides relatively few points of contact between the metal and the microbes, making it take as long as several hours for enough ions to flow from the copper to the bacteria.
Researchers at Purdue University have developed a laser to etch patterns at the nanoscale. This gives the metal a rough texture with a much larger surface area, which also increases ion flow. In tests, the treated copper completely eliminated harmful bacteria such as E.coli and Staphylococcus aureus in just 40 minutes.
However, that’s not all. Back in 2015, another study proved that copper also has a destructive effect on influenza a virus and norovirus.
How to use copper as a weapon to fight coronavirus? It’s complicated, but possible. Some hospitals have been using equipment made partly of copper for some time now. Test results are promising. The bacterial load there has been reduced by 83 percent; in addition, the infection rate in patients has dropped by 58 percent.
In theory, copper can also be used at home. However, the treatment to ensure that the copper does not lose its original color can be problematic here. Oxidation of copper can also be a problem, making the beneficial, antimicrobial properties less effective over time.
What not to believe? Certainly in the assurances of shamans and swindlers, selling copper jewelry and items that “chase away” the virus. We should remember that the coronavirus is most easily contracted by touching our eyes, nose or mouth with our hands. None of the available talismans is able to provide us with complete, one hundred percent protection.