Reactive oxygen species (ROS) can be used to disinfect a wide range of pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi. ROS is an attractive disinfectant as it decomposes into non-toxic degradation products (water and oxygen). However, ROS is highly reactive and can be hazardous to store and transport. This project aims at utilizing a unique chemistry found in mussel adhesive proteins to create a portable biomaterial that can be activated to generate ROS. The antiviral capability of the generated ROS will be tested against different viruses with varying properties and levels of chemical resistance. The biomaterial itself does not contain ROS and is only activated to generate ROS by a simple hydration process. The proposed biomimetic material can potentially be used as a portable, light-weight disinfectant for preventing viral infection. The proposed research will engage undergraduate and graduate students, as well as underrepresented community college students, in interdisciplinary research involving polymeric materials, biomimetic chemistry, and antiviral research. Additionally, investigators will develop a new polymeric biomaterials module as part of the Michigan Technology University Summer Youth Program to introduce high school students in hands-on activities related to the use of biomaterials as a drug carrier.


The proposed work aims at harvesting the byproduct of a unique reduction-oxidation chemistry found in mussel adhesive proteins for antiviral application. Polymers are functionalized with the adhesive molecule, catechol, which generate hydrogen peroxide during autoxidation. To enhance the antiviral capability of catechol-containing materials, polymer architecture and composition, as well as the reactivity of catechol will be tuned to create polymer systems that are optimized to generate potent radical-based ROS, such as superoxide anion and hydroxyl radical. The ability for the generated ROS to inactivate both enveloped and non-enveloped viruses as well as a herpes virus will be explored. Results from this proposal will provide a greater understanding on the dose, duration, and type of ROS needed to inactivate different types of viruses with varying properties and levels of biocide resistance. ROS is generated on-demand when the material is hydrated in an aqueous solution with neutral pH. This process involves the conversion of molecular oxygen in the solution to ROS, through the oxidation of the catechol moiety. This approach is drastically different from other existing approaches that contain ROS, require externally provided chemical reactants, or require external energy sources to generate ROS. The material does not contain a reservoir for storing the reactive ROS, which greatly simplifies how it could be stored and transported.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Materials Research (DMR)
Application #
Program Officer
Steve Smith
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Michigan Technological University
United States
Zip Code