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)

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

Just Posted

Divyesh Nagarajan, third from the left, has founded the Be My Friend project to bring support and companionship to vulnerable youth and address North Saanich’s food security challenges. (Courtesy of Divyesh Nagarajan)
Greater Victoria teen looks to connect vulnerable youth with a buddy, bolster food security

Be My Friend project was founded by St. Michaels University School student Divyesh Nagarajan

Greater Victoria is ranked fourth out of 27 Canadian cities for the best places for youth to work in, according to a RBC report. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria among best Canadian cities for youth to work in, says RBC report

Region ranked fourth out of 27, behind Vancouver, Hamilton and Edmonton

Donna Brower (left) and her daughter Carol Anne Penner, members of the Silver Swans – a quilting group of 12 ladies who meet at the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary – with a mountain of masks they sewed. (Photo submitted by Julia Dawson)
Saanich quilting group nabs first prize in Volunteer BC photo contest

Silver Swans sewing club raised more than $12,000 for Swan Lake nature sanctuary

Saanich police reported an increase in violent crimes and a drop in traffic incidents in the first three months of 2021 compared to the final quarter of 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich police report increase in violent crimes during first quarter of 2021

More domestic violence, less property crime and distracted driving compared to end of 2020

Happy green tomato seedlings wait to be purchased at 3378 Wishart Rd. in Colwood. They’ve been grown especially for the Colwood Garden Society’s fundraiser to build a shed at the community garden. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
Colwood Garden Society hopes to raise shed with plant sale

Herbs, vegetable starts, flowers and more for $1, $2 and $3 until May 15

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

A nurse asks screening questions at an immunization appointment in Nanaimo earlier this year. (Shawn Wagar/Island Health photo)
Island Health appreciates nurses answering the call in challenging times

Health authority draws attention to National Nursing Week

BC Housing minister David Eby. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Eby jabs back against Penticton mayor’s ad urging BC Premier to intervene in shelter dispute

Eby writes that Penticton’s ‘serious’ social issues won’t improve under leadership of the mayor

What3words was first created in the U.K. in 2013 and is credited to saving the lives of outdoor enthusiasts around the world. (Contributed)
‘This is a life saving tool’: App helps paramedics find capsized canoeists near Revelstoke

What3words pinpoints the person’s phone location to a three-meter range

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart addresses supporters in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says there’s no time to redo details of drug decriminalization plan

Kennedy Stewart says a federal election could see the small window of opportunity close on the city’s bid for an exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs

Premier Mike Horgan received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Facebook/John Horgan)
More than 50% of people eligible in B.C. have received 1st vaccine dose

‘We’ve made extraordinary progress together over the past few weeks,’ says Premier Horgan

Most Read