© Beuth Hochschule / Karsten Flügel15.04.2020
COVID-19: Berlin universities are helping
Buildings, lecture halls and laboratories in the Brain City Berlin are currently closed to students, teachers and researchers due to the corona pandemic. Nevertheless, research at the Berlin universities and colleges is not at a standstill: Scientists are actively supporting the containment of the coronavirus in various projects.
The 16-member team from the Beuth University of Applied Sciences in Berlin has called the transparent protective shields which can be folded over the face of the wearer like the visor of a knight’s armour “Face Shields”. These protective devices are practical for doctors in small practices, for example, who are currently often unable to be supplied with protective masks. This means that medical staff cannot be “spat upon” or touch their own faces. This in turn significantly reduces the risk of being infected with the coronavirus during treatment. This is especially the case as the Face Shield can also be worn over a filter mask.
Around 12,000 of these visors are to be produced in various laboratories as part of an aid campaign at Beuth University of Applied Sciences in the coming weeks. The materials for another 20,000 Face Shields are expected, which will then also be processed at the university. In addition to the Beuth University, the partners of the project include the non-profit aid organisation CADUS and various open workshops in Berlin and Brandenburg, so-called Makerspaces. They mainly take care of logistics and sales; some also produce visors. Companies donate the material that is urgently needed to produce the Face Shields. For example, a long-established Berlin water and pump system company spontaneously and unbureaucratically donated an aluminium plate for the production of moulds for silicone strips.
Incidentally, the idea for the “Face Shields” project did not come from the university staff, but rather from a student: Paul Jerchel from the Council for Forward-Looking Development, a student initiative of the Beuth University. He coordinates the campaign together with laboratory engineer Tasso Mulzer. The university provides the know-how and laboratories. Various prototypes were initially developed and tested in the laboratory for production technology. Laser cutting devices, punching shears, 3D printers and a CNC milling machine are used in production. The Face Shields will be distributed free of charge, for example, to medical practices, hospitals and care facilities, but also to those who need to wear them.
Chemists are currently producing up to 500 litres of disinfectant per day at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. The main customer is the Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, which needs large quantities of disinfectants for doctors and nurses. “We did not stock up disinfectants or the manufacturing materials for this in advance,” explains Michael Bojdys, junior professor at the Institute of Chemistry at the HU in the University's science podcast. “This is above all thanks to the Association of the Chemical Industry (VCI), which has called on manufacturers to increase their production capacities of the components of disinfectants and thus to supply the critical infrastructure.”
The components of disinfectants are ethyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and the glycerin necessary for hand disinfection. According to the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO), a core team of chemists at the HU Berlin is currently mixing the coveted liquid far beyond normal working hours in order to help contain the corona pandemic. “Producing disinfectants is not 'rocket science'. You can imagine it more like mixing a drink at home,” says Bojdys. However, he adds a warning. “The production in large quantities is, however, complicated for our employees. A laboratory is always required.” Imitation is therefore not recommended!
The lack of quickly wearing-out spare parts in medical devices can rapidly become a problem when it comes to caring for people infected with the coronavirus. In Italy, for example, hospitals are already struggling with this. “Theoretically, it is possible to manufacture corresponding spare parts and overcome bottlenecks using so-called additive manufacturing processes,” says Dipl.-Ing. Ben Jastram from the 3D laboratory at the TU Berlin. Together with his colleague Joachim Weinhold, in response to a request from the European Commission, he and the 3D Printing Association set up a network at the end of March to bring institutions and companies from across the country together. Objectives of the initiators: To mitigate bottlenecks in wear and spare parts such as components for respiratory and protective masks or complex valve parts in the current crisis in an unbureaucratic manner. Among others, the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research (IAP) in Potsdam and the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin have joined the initiative, which consciously sees itself as an interim solution.
The fact that aid initiatives such as these work spontaneously in Brain City Berlin is mainly due to the close cooperation between science and business in the region. The excellent cross-institutional and cross-disciplinary connections within the Berlin University Alliance is another reason. With a new collaborative project, it wants to lay the foundation for research on the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The “Corona Virus Pre-Exploration Project“ is funded for a year with a total of 1.8 million Euro. Scientists from the Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin and Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin are involved. Among other things, they will deal with potential active substances, the development of vaccine approaches and possible health economic consequences.The project managers are the biochemist Prof. Dr. Rainer Haag (Freie Universität Berlin), the chemist Prof. Dr. Christian Hackenberger (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and Leibniz Research Institute for Molecular Pharmacology), the biochemist Prof. Dr. Jens Kurreck (Technische Universität Berlin) and the virologist and Brain City ambassador Prof. Dr. Christian Drosten (Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin).
- The “Face Shields” project of the Beuth University: Whoever requires visors and masks can register at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- MakerVsVirus.org provides Face Shields to those who need to wear them, practices, hospitals and care facilities.
- For the production of additional Face Shields in the laboratory, the team at the Beuth University urgently needs rubber gloves (household gloves), agitators for two-component silicone and milling tools. Contact: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ralf Förster: email@example.com
- 3D Initiative of the TU Berlin: Institutions and organisations wishing to participate in the initiative can contact the contact persons at the TU Berlin.
- Disinfectants: The online platform ”NOtversorgung DEsinfektionsmittel 2020” (Emergency supply disinfectants 2020) (NODE) of the VCI connects providers and buyers of hand disinfectants, raw materials, containers and services in the field of filling and logistics nationwide for the duration of the corona crisis.
- The “Corona Virus Pre-Exploration Project” of the Berlin University Alliance
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