PNNL scientist invents Elastidry, a water repellent substance that could block diseases on PPE

RICHLAND, Wash. – PNNL Materials Scientist Curtis Larimer has spent years creating Elastidry Special Coating.

He said research for the superhydrophobic, A.K.A. ‘water-fearing’ coating, took years. The team started years ago when the Ebola Virus broke out in parts of Western Africa.

Now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for his invention is more relevant than ever.

“It is a stretchy and super repellant coating so it was designed to be able to integrate into medical PPE. It can shed water almost perfectly, so instead of water droplets sticking to it the water will bounce right off the surface,” Larimer said.

The material is capable of repelling the tiniest of water molecules, and Larimer hopes it could also prevent diseases from sticking to medical professionals’ PPE.

“We’re hopeful that, it would prevent some sort of transfer of infectious liquids in medical settings,” he said.

The scientist said they looked to nature to create Elastidry.

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“One of nature’s best examples is the lotus plant and it has this textured bumpy surface really small scale features that help it shed water in the same way we wanted to replicate,” Larimer said.

When the pandemic hit, Larimer and his team had to make many adjustments, but it also forced them to think about Elastidry being used by medical professionals.

“In our research, it really focused us on pushing forward to make the material more durable and more able to withstand the long term use that we need it for,” Larimer said.

Recently, Larimer pitched the invention to a national panel of entrepreneurs in a competition, and won thousands of dollars.

“We’re gonna be using that primarily to try and engage commercial partners that would help us produce and commercialize the technology,” he said.

Now, Larimer hopes companies will pick up Elastidry as a part of PPE design, to keep frontline workers safe from COVID-19 and other diseases.