Zwitterionic polymer hydrogel repels viruses in reuse research

Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), have developed a new ultrafiltration membrane that improves virus removal for treated municipal wastewater.

Professor Moshe Herzberg at the Department of Desalination and Water Treatment at Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, BGU, and his group, grafted a hydrogel coating onto a commercial ultrafiltration membrane. The zwitterionic polymer hydrogel repels viruses from approaching and passing through the membrane.

It contains positive and negative charges, and improves efficiency by weakening virus accumulation on the modified filter surface. The result was a significantly higher rate of removal of waterborne viruses, including human norovirus and adenovirus.

Herzberg and his student, Maria Piatkovsky, worked in collaboration with Professor Thanh Nguyen and her student, Ruiqing Lu, at the Department of Chemical Engineering, UIUC; and with Professor Mathias Ulbricht, chair of technical chemistry II, University Duisburg Essen, Germany.

“Utilising a simple graft-polymerisation of commercialised membranes to make virus removal more comprehensive is a promising development for controlling filtration of pathogens in potable water reuse,” said Professor Nguyen.

The collaborative research is published in the current issue of Water Research.