A Thunder Bay and Guelph-based technology company that's produced a COVID-19-killing coating for personal protective equipment (PPE), using Northern Ontario-source graphite material, has been given the green light to head to commercial production this spring.
ZEN Graphene Solutions was advised by its manufacturing partner, Trebor Rx Corp., that surgical masks with ZEN’s biocidal coating have passed Health Canada testing requirements as a level 2 medical device.
The coated masks were tested at a Health Canada-approved facility in line with American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards.
Trebor intends to begin marketing the ZEN-coated four-ply masks immediately with products available in April. Both companies intend to ramp up production to meet the strong demand Trebor is now receiving.
ZEN developed a graphene-based virucidal ink coating that can be applied as an agent to N-95 masks or fabrics. Third-party lab testing at Nucro-Technics showed it was 99.9 per cent effective in rendering the COVID-19 virus inactive after a seven-day repeated dose study.
The anti-viral ink formulation they produced is a processed graphene product pulled from a bulk sample material extracted at ZEN's high-grade Albany deposit, located west of Hearst. The highly-pure deposit was discovered just off Highway 11 in 2011. At that time, the company was known as Zenyatta Ventures.
“When we announced our initial agreement with Trebor late last year, it was truly a historic day for ZEN," said ZEN CEO Greg Fenton in a March 3 news release.
"Now, with the requisite approvals and safety data in place, our initial agreement is poised to become a commercial reality. Importantly, we bring a new innovative product with an added level of protection to our front-line workers and the public while setting the stage for what we believe is substantial growth potential and tremendous value creation.
"We are extremely excited to have achieved this milestone with our partners at Trebor and expect the demand for personal protective equipment with biocidal protection to grow in tandem with our relationship.”
In statement, Trebor CEO George Irwin said their four-ply mask is "gamechanging" technology.
"The additional layer of protection from ZEN’s biocidal coating against COVID-19 and various other bacterial and fungal pathogens, including the common cold virus, is the disrupter we need to get ahead of this and the other mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus."
Trebor is preparing its facilities in Collingwood and Edmonton for the start of a production run in April.
"This announcement is the culmination of many hours of hard work by the people at both ZEN and Trebor, and it shows that innovative technology is alive and well in Canada as we work toward making lives safer every day," said Irwin.
ZEN has been developing a slew of different graphene-based products in their research pipeline to use them a carbon nanomaterial additive in auto parts, industrial coatings, lubricants, lithium-ion batteries, high-strength concrete, water desalination and purification membranes.