Updates and Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)
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Containing the Spread of COVID-19

Understanding and minimizing the spread of the novel coronavirus has been at the forefront of discussions during the pandemic as researchers work to reduce transmission of COVID-19. Experts across campus have been pioneers in this effort, conducting research designed to keep front line and essential workers safe. From innovative new face mask and face shield designs to reducing in-person contact during commutes, UT researchers are constantly working to reduce the impact of the virus on our community. 

Electric scooters from both VeoRide and Spin can be found around Knoxville. Photo by Dan Ervin, Becon Contributor

Electric scooters from both VeoRide and Spin can be found around Knoxville. 2019 Photo by Dan Ervin, Becon Contributor

Rethinking Public Transportation During a Pandemic

In late March, businesses across the country started closing in an effort to decrease the spread of the novel coronavirus. However, workers in businesses or fields considered essential still had to commute to and from work. In metro areas, that can often mean taking some form of transit, potentially exposing workers in these vital areas to the disease.

With funding from a National Science Foundation RAPID Award, researchers in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering are studying whether adoption of new forms of transportation, such as bikeshares and e-scooters, could provide options that would allow workers a way to get to work without putting them in the close confines of other passengers on traditional transportation methods, and whether people would even choose these alternate methods in the first place.

Tom Duong holding face shield in UT's FabLab Collaboration Studio, has 20 machines running to print headbands for face masks.

Tom Duong, staff supervisor in the Tickle College of Engineering’s Innovation and Collaboration Studio, has 20 machines running to print headbands for face masks.

UT Labs Produce 50,000 Face Shield Components

In March, faculty and staff began fabricating face-shield headbands and other personal protective gear in the fight against COVID-19. Using commercial-grade 3D printers in the College of Architecture and Design’s Fab Lab, a 20,000-square-foot maker space with advanced digital and analog equipment, a team produced hundreds of headbands, which were fitted with acetate shields at another location.

To date, 50,000 of these headbands have been created for distribution to medical professionals across the state of Tennessee. 

The Man Behind the Mask

Peter Tsai, longtime research faculty member of the Department of Material Science and Engineering, is the architect behind the essential technology in N95 respirators, the ones in such high demand for use on the front lines in the fight to contain COVID-19. Tsai recently came out of retirement to work in conjunction with the UT Research Foundation on methods and testing that might provide a way for the masks to be safely reused, greatly improving the outlook for medical teams and first responders during the pandemic. 

Architecture Professor Designs and Donates Face Shield for Healthcare Workers

Maged Guerguis, assistant professor of design and structural technology in the School of Architecture, created a new face shield in March 2020 that was designated U.S. patent pending (No. 29/733,737) in May 2020. The shield, named “UT-Shield,” weighs only two ounces, assembles in five seconds and provides improved comfort and maximum protection for medical professionals. As of late May, hundreds of UT-Shields had been donated, and more are currently being printed in the college’s Fab Lab for healthcare providers locally and across the state of Tennessee.

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