U of A chemists join fight against COVID-19 by making hand sanitizer

Scientists use World Health Organization recipe to prepare more than 200 litres in three hours.


U of A chemists are using labs on campus to make hand sanitizer for the community, using a WHO recipe and a process that allows them to maintain physical distancing. (Photo: Laura Pham)

Scientists at the University of Alberta are helping take on medical supply shortages in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic by producing hundreds of litres of hand sanitizer in their labs.

"Our initial batch was created to be shared with the University of Alberta community, but the university has also extended an invitation to the City of Edmonton and our first responders," said Rik Tykwinski, professor and chair in the Department of Chemistry.

The team followed the formula recommended by the World Health Organization, making roughly 200 litres in the first round of production-only stopping when they ran out of bottles.

"While we believe we are the first university in Canada to undertake production, we give credit to our colleagues in chemistry departments around the world-they were our inspiration," said chemistry professor Jillian Buriak.

Buriak added that the team took strict measures to observe all Government of Alberta health recommendations while working in the lab, including physical distancing.

Tykwinski noted that producing hand sanitizer to help keep the community safe is just one way U of A faculty and staff are contributing to the global fight against COVID-19.

"We have several of our researchers in the department and across campus who are collaborating with scientists and colleagues around the globe to search for a vaccine for this global pandemic," he said.

"This is another way we can help-and as the need continues, we will continue production to support our community through this crisis."