The technology has potential applications for inactivating viruses by oxidizing, denaturing and degrading proteins and other substances on the virus surface. With oxygen in the air acting as an oxidant, the catalyst species produces this effect even under dark conditions at room temperature without requiring light irradiation, as is usually the case with oxidation.
In addition to inactivating viruses - including the novel coronavirus - this technology can also inactivate pathogens such as fungi and bacteria. It has the potential for wide-ranging applications in the future, including use as antibacterial and antiviral base materials in filters for air conditioning equipment and air purifiers, as well as in masks and medical textile products.
This technology utilizes organic nitroxyl radical oxidation catalysts (radical catalysts). They oxidize organic compounds in the presence of appropriate co-catalysts using molecular oxygen in ambient air acting as a terminal oxidant.
Studies of this technology's effects have found that the oxoammonium salts produced from radical catalysts through aerobic oxidation oxidize and inactivate viruses' surface proteins, thereby reducing their ability to bind to target cells. Furthermore, processing 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 SARS-CoV2 virus -its infectious activity on feline renal cells was assessed and a notable inhibition of infection-related morphological changes in the cells was observed.
This technology was created by leveraging Nissan's technologies and expertise in automotive development, and the Tohoku University faculty's technologies related to drug development, drug evaluation and other pharmaceutical sciences, catalyst preparation and catalyst performance evaluation.
Radical catalysts are used as additives in the polymer base materials of automotive paints, as well as in the fiber and organic polymer materials used in vehicle interiors and exteriors. They inhibit photodegradation reactions (e.g., cracking, embrittlement, fading) over long periods of time. Nissan has been researching and developing the use of radical catalysts to inactivate viruses in an effort to make the most of their catalytic activity and further contribute to society.