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Thai scientists develop saltwater Covid-19 disinfectant device

Image Credits: The Nation Thailand, News Article

Scientists at Prince of Songkla University (PSU) have unveiled a breakthrough in the battle to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and other diseases.

A PSU Faculty of Science research team has developed a device that uses simple technology to produce hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite to disinfect any surface. The device uses only water and salt, making it a convenient and almost free way of producing a constant supply of disinfectant.

PSU has handed the research knowledge to government agencies and schools in nine southern provinces – Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phatthalung, Trang, Satun, Songkhla, Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.

The device is designed to replace regular disinfectants, including relatively expensive alcohol-based cleansers.

Dr Warakorn Limbut, a PSU chemical scientist, said the new disinfectant device uses electrodes immersed in a container of salt and water (sodium chloride solution). When an electric current is passed through the solution, the positive electrode produces hypochlorous acid with a pH level of 4.0 to 6.5 – a weak acid that is highly effective in destroying bacteria and viruses. Meanwhile, the negative electrode produces sodium hydroxide with a pH of 8-14 – the main ingredient of bleach.

Warakorn hailed the commitment of the Faculty of Science students, who worked for one year to develop the device. He said knowledge from the project will now be used for commercial applications to help society.

“In future, we will work with businesses to develop more efficient use of hypochlorous acids and hypochlorites in a larger machine.”

The research was part of PSU’s efforts to prevent the spread of disease and protect the health of Thai people, he added.

Pushing R&D and innovation in Thailand

The government aims to accelerate the country’s R&D spending to 2.2% of GDP in seven years to improve economic development and reduce social disparity in the face of future uncertainty.

The Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Minister stated that the government is on a roadmap to become an innovation country as it is scaling up efforts to improve competitiveness in science and technology. Thailand’s economy ranks 20th out of 200 countries globally in terms of GDP. R&D expenses in Thailand are expected to reach 2.2% of GDP in seven years from an estimated 1.23% in 2021, or THB196 billion.

Thailand’s science and technology sector is seeing advancement. For example, the country is able to make a small satellite. “Within four years, we will make a 150-kilogramme class satellite before stepping up to produce a 300kg satellite,” said the Minister.

A xenon gas-powered spaceship can be built and sent to the moon, he said. This spaceship can be piloted by robots or artificial intelligence, controlled from a ground station 300,000km away.

The minister said the Office of Atoms for Peace is developing its own nuclear reactor, using 50% domestic technology. Thailand hopes to build a tokamak fusion reactor for clean energy within 20 years.

The country is also researching Covid-19 vaccines in seven projects. Two of them – messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) and tobacco vaccines – have passed animal testing stages. The government expects to use the vaccines on humans in the second half of 2021. “Thailand has talent innovators and scientists, but we need to improve our system to speed up innovation,” he concluded.

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