UDT, an applied research center in the field of bioeconomy, contributes to the new reality of living with the COVID-19 virus. Thus, it is working on 4 projects related to the pandemic.

Alcohol gel is a sanitizing product that will be in everyone’s backpacks, purses and pockets for a long time to come. It is produced from ethanol to which a gelling agent is added, usually a polymer of acrylic acid, a petroleum byproduct. “We are developing a new gelling agent based on cellulose fibers, a natural and sustainable material, which behaves similarly to traditional gelling agents, with the difference that our product is environmentally sustainable, can be produced in Chile and is skin-friendly,” says Dr. Alex Berg, Director of UDT.

Another development, based on cellulose fibers, is a new type of disposable and biodegradable mask, which replaces those made of non-woven polypropylene (PP), a material that has very fine fibers that are harmful to the environment. UDT was awarded funds from the Ministry of Science to develop a bio-based material that will make it possible to manufacture masks with the same properties, in terms of breathability and pathogen retention, as conventional masks.

It is also evaluating two alternatives for recycling disposable PP masks, one mechanical and the other thermochemical. Álvaro Maldonado, head of the Biomaterials area at UDT, comments that “from mechanical recycling we have obtained pellets, which can be transformed into various manufactured products. We have characterized the pellets and are preparing the technical data sheet, with the mechanical and rheological properties that we determined”.