While making smart glue, a team of engineers discovered a handy byproduct: hydrogen peroxide. In microgel form, it reduces bacteria and virus ability to infect by at least 99 percent. After the researchers first observed that the reactions created hydrogen peroxide, they started considering the best form to put the byproduct in. The team wanted lots of surface area to power the chemical reaction and they wanted a way to reuse the material. So, the team made a microgel. Microgels are like tiny bubbles of Jello. To the naked eye, the dry form is a nondescript powder. Suspend it in a solution with neutral or a slightly alkaline pH, such as distilled water or a saline solution like contact lens cleaner, and the hydrogen peroxide cycle gets rolling. Left to its own devices, the micron-sized microgels generated between one to five millimolars over four days. Once the microgel powder is dried again, the material basically resets, sits safely contained in a small bag, and can be reused. It's like an on-demand bottle of disinfectant -- without the bulky bottle and hazardous storage issues.
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