The technology has potential applications for inactivating viruses by oxidizing, denaturing and breaking down proteins and other substances on the virus surface. Since the oxygen in the air acts as an oxidizing agent, the catalyst species produces this effect even in the dark at room temperature without the need for exposure to light, as is often the case with oxidation.
In addition to inactivating viruses – including the new coronavirus – this technology can also inactivate pathogens such as fungi and bacteria. It has the potential for a wide range of applications in the future, including use as antibacterial and antiviral base materials in filters for air conditioning and air purifiers, as well as in masks and medical textiles.
This technology uses organic nitroxyl radical oxidation catalysts (free radical catalysts). These oxidize organic compounds in the presence of suitable co-catalysts using molecular oxygen from the ambient air, which acts as a final oxidant.
Studies on the effects of this technology have found that oxoammonium salts, produced from free-radical catalysts by aerobic oxidation, oxidize and inactivate surface proteins of viruses, reducing their ability to bind to target cells. Furthermore, processing of the receptor-binding domain of the spike protein of SARS-CoV2 (Omicron strain) significantly reduces the binding of the spike protein to the receptor (see figure below). Using feline coronavirus – an alternative virus to SARS-CoV2 – its infectious activity in feline kidney cells was evaluated and remarkable inhibition of infection-related morphological changes in the cells was observed.
This technology was developed by utilizing Nissan’s technologies and experience in automobile development and technologies of Tohoku University faculty related to drug development, drug evaluation and other pharmaceutical sciences, catalyst manufacturing and catalyst performance evaluation.
Free-radical catalysts are used as additives in the polymer base materials of car paints and in organic polymer and fiber materials in the interior and exterior of vehicles. They inhibit photodegradation reactions (e.g. cracking, brittleness, discoloration) for long periods of time. Nissan researches and develops the use of free radical catalysts to inactivate viruses to make the most of their catalytic activity and make a further contribution to society.