A solar tech lab at Swansea University has temporarily switched to producing 5000 litres of hand sanitiser a week, to help the NHS fight the Covid-19 outbreak.
The sanitiser, which meets the standard set by the World Health Organization, is already in use in the local NHS.
The team is made up of over 30 volunteers from three different Swansea University Colleges and Schools whose mission is to support Wales’ NHS heroes whilst they fight the global pandemic on the front line.
Manufacturing is being led by SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre, who specialise in solar research and in developing buildings that generate, store and release their own solar energy.
Dr Iain Robertson, Reader at Swansea University, said:
“This project has united the entire University. From approval, we were able to deliver WHO recommended hand sanitiser to where it was needed within 7 days. We have been able to utilise the chemical processing expertise of the SPECIFIC team at Swansea University.
We are now able to produce 5000 litres a week for delivery to local health boards and care homes. Swansea University is delighted to support NHS workers and carers.”
The team is working closely with local manufacturers to procure the vast quantities of ingredients needed.
One of the largest rum distillers in Wales, Coles Brewery, have diverted their rum production to ethanol in order to produce the hand sanitiser, as well as upscaling their production in a very short time to meet the demand. Swansea University spin-out, Hexigone Inhibitors, has also lent their staff and manufacturing expertise to the project during its set-up.
The manufacturing process has also been tweaked and refined throughout the week with new equipment being built-in house. The team devised a multi-head bottling apparatus which can fill a 5L bottle in 20 seconds rather than 60 seconds.
Following production, with the help of Chemcycle, the hand sanitiser is delivered to NHS distribution networks so that it can feed into the existing supply chains at the two local health boards.
The number of patients being admitted into hospital with Coronavirus is increasing daily, and stockpiles of sanitiser and the materials to make it are low all around the world. This project is one of many initiatives born from the South Wales Additive and Rapid Manufacturing (SWARM) Consortium, set-up to unite and mobilise local organisations to support the NHS.
Professor Dave Worsley, Vice President of Innovation at Swansea University, said:
“We’ve got a rich heritage of manufacturing in South Wales, and as a University, we were eager to adapt our skills and facilities to help protect our NHS heroes. The long-term supply chain will replenish stock eventually but making hand sanitiser locally is a great way to fill the gap. We’ve worked incredibly hard to get to this stage so quickly and, as a team, we’re excited to be at a point where we are distributing the sanitiser locally.”
Dr Tracey Brady, GP at Gowerton Medical Centre, added:
“Hand sanitiser is a vital component of the equipment required by frontline healthcare workers in the fight against Covid-19. Our practice is delighted and relieved to have received a supply from our local University. This will help us to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission and keep our patients and staff safe.”
Swansea University would like to thank the following local businesses that have also been instrumental in getting the sanitiser to the front line:
Fluid Power Solutions Wales: Supplied a variety of dispensers and pipe fittings, at very short notice, to enable the team to connect the pieces of equipment together and transfer the sanitiser effectively.
Roberts Direct Ltd: Has helped with daily deliveries and unloading the enormous mixing vessels for the sanitiser. Without their equipment it would have been an impossible task.
Perkin Elmer: Have assisted the team in setting up quality control checks and have prepared an application note on hand sanitiser analysis
Greenbuild Consulting: Worked with the facilities team as consultants on health and safety, as well as keeping the team up to date with regulations as they have changed during the crisis.
Hybrisan: Sourced and donated the first 600 bottles for free in order to get the sanitiser to the front line quickly.
Centregreat: Also supplied bottles and screw caps for free in order to keep up with NHS demand.