Rishi Gupta, civil engineer and University of Victoria associate professor, is studying various metals and materials in hopes of creating pathogen-resistant washbasins for use in public spaces. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

UVic research team creating virus-resistant washbasins for post-pandemic world

Civil engineer Rishi Gupta hopes basins will be installed in public spaces

When most people think about reducing germs, they don’t think about the petals of lotus flowers.

But that’s exactly what’s inspiring University of Victoria researcher Rishi Gupta in his quest to create the perfect handwashing station for the prevention of COVID-19 and other viruses.

“We know – COVID or not – hand washing is the number one method to control the spread of any virus,” Gupta said.

The civil engineer and associate professor typically studies concrete and other materials, working to find more sustainable, stronger and long-lasting mixtures. But when the COVID-19 pandemic started, he got a call from an acrylic company in the Fraser Valley asking for his help to make germ-resistant washbasins.

The concept was a pipe dream until federal funding arrived for innovators finding COVID-19 solutions. Now Gupta and a team of researchers are working at the University of Victoria campus, testing different metals and materials and modelling various designs in hopes of creating self-cleaning, anti-viral washbasins for use in public spaces, both during and after the pandemic.

READ ALSO: UVic Engineering to 3-D print 4,000 face-shields for frontline workers

While it may feel out of place to talk about lotus flowers in the context of hard metals and plastics, it’s nature that provides the best examples of hydrophobic material. The petals of lotus flowers don’t just resist water, they repel it.

“After it rains, the surface is completely pristine. It looks as if it’s been painted,” Gupta said. “If you look closely at the surface of the lotus leaf it actually has a very smooth surface which doesn’t allow things to stick to it. It’s called the lotus effect in science.”

Gupta and his team hope to replicate that effect with the material used in the basins. That property has to be studied closely – as in microscope closely – in order to see how water behaves on a given metal or material. The team is also investigating which materials are the most pathogen-resistant.

While the team is still in the discovery phase, the basins, once prepared, will be tested with a corona-equivalent virus and if all goes well, these washbasins could become fixtures in public spaces.

“The idea, simply, is even if you can install 20 washbasins in high-traffic areas, that’s a success story,” Gupta said. “We need to plant the seed in peoples’ minds to think about having these basins at entrances and exits.”

READ ALSO: University of Victoria chemist works to create at-home COVID-19 test


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
nina.grossman@blackpress.ca Follow us on Instagram.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusresearchUniversity of VictoriaUVic

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich residents warned to watch livestock after bear kills llama

Officers with Conservation, Saanich police could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

A 23-foot sailboat that broke free from its anchor was smashed against Cattle Point during the early October south-easterly storms. (Ron Geezin Photo)
Storm-smashed boat pulled off rocks of Cattle Point in Oak Bay

Sailboat a casualty of last week’s big storms

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

More than 250 riders took part in the fifth annual Tripleshot CrossFondo, which riders across parts of the Saanich Peninsula, including this field near Sluggett Farms. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Tripleshot CrossFondo rides across Saanich Peninsula

More than 250 cyclists took part in mystery-course race

City of Victoria crews will soon be gathering up fallen leaves in neighbourhoods and city parks. First up on the pickup list are the James Bay, Fairfield, Rockland, Gonzales and South Jubilee neighbourhoods, starting Oct. 19. (Courtesy City of Victoria)
Victoria city leaf pickup a sure sign of fall

Residential pickup begins Oct. 19, drop-offs can happen anytime at city yard

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

(File photo)
RCMP: Two men face charges in reported Parksville fatal hit-and-run

Investigation into man’s death began in August of 2019

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Steven Michael Bacon pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder of Nanaimo teen Makayla Chang. (Photos submitted)
Accused pleads not guilty in Nanaimo teen’s 2017 murder

Steven Bacon appeared in Nanaimo court Monday via video link from Thunder Bay

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Kootenay couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Most Read