Potential ways of killing the corona virus

March 31, 2020 at 2:34 pm | Posted in Health and safety, Practical tips | 2 Comments
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The diameter of a corona virus is about 120 nanometers.

(See this Wikipedia article, which bases this value of the diameter upon the very instructive article, Fehr AR, Perlman S (2015), “Coronaviruses: An Overview of Their Replication and Pathogenesis; Section 2 Genomic Organization”, in Maier HJ, Bickerton E, Britton P (eds.), Methods in Molecular Biology, Springer. 1282: 1–23. The freely-down-loadable pre-publication version of the article by Fehr and Perlman is available here.)

A nanometer is a billionth of a meter, and a meter is slightly larger than a yard.

It might aid visualization to note that a nanometer is about ten times the diameter of a hydrogen atom in that atom’s ground state. So 120 nanometers is about the length covered by 1200 hydrogen atoms, if there were no spaces between the electron “clouds” of the atoms.

Light having a vacuum wavelength of 120 nanometers would be deep in the ultraviolet portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. So ultraviolet light of twice that wavelength or shorter should efficiently heat and destroy exposed virus particles (“virions”). This could be used to disinfect air and exposed surfaces. Of course, the eyes and skin of humans and other animals would have to be protected from this type of ultraviolet light.

What about corona viruses hidden within the body?

The speed of sound in soft tissue is roughly 1540 meters per second. (The exact value varies with the type of the tissue.) A wavelength of 120 nanometers would correspond to an acoustic frequency of 1540/(120 x 10-9) = 12.83 GHz. Doubling the wavelength would halve the frequency to 6.42 GHz. That is near the upper range of commercially available ultrasonic devices (see here). Ultrasound of that frequency or higher should efficiently heat and destroy virions hidden within the body. Frequencies ten times that, or more, would stress the tall spike structural glyco-proteins that stud the virion’s envelope.

These weapons could be used against all types of corona viruses: that is, against SARS, MERS, SARS COV-2, most non-rhinovirus forms of the common cold, and against corona virus types yet to emerge.

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