UAlberta chemists creating hand sanitizer on campus

Scientists at UAlberta have used World Health Organization recipe to prepare more than 1200L to meet the needs of the community.

Andrew Lyle - 27 March 2020

Scientists in the Department of Chemistry are helping to take on the global challenge of medical supply shortages in the face of COVID-19—by producing hand sanitizer in the labs right here at the University of Alberta.

As of May 5th, over 1200 litres has been produced by the team. The santizer has since been donated and put to use in the community by several organizations, including Boyle Street Community Services, the Edmonton Police Service, Oak Hill Ranch—a youth treatment and care facility located in Bon Accord—and several schools in Edmonton.

“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 in three hours—only stopping when they ran out of bottles.

As for the inspiration for the idea, the team credits the efforts of the wider scientific community. “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 Jillian Buriak, professor in the Department of Chemistry.

Buriak also explained that the team took strict measures to observe all Government of Alberta health recommendations while working in the lab, including social distancing—something everyone can do to help slow the spread of the virus.

The production of hand sanitizer to help keep the community safe is just one way that 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,” said Tykwinski. “This is another way we can help support—and as the need continues, we will continue production to support our community through this crisis.”

Thank you to Rik Tykwinski, Jillian Buriak, Jonathan Veinot, Vladimir Michaelis, Andrew Yeung, Laura Pham, their teams, and everyone involved!

The Government of Alberta recommends several steps you can take to reduce the spread of COVID-19:

To protect yourself and others:

  • practice social distancing
  • wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow
  • avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
  • avoid travel outside Canada
  • watch for COVID-19 symptoms: cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose or sore throat

Follow mandatory self-isolation requirements:

  • 14 days if you recently returned from travel outside of Canada or are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, plus an additional 10 days from the onset of symptoms, should they occur, whichever is longer
  • 10 days minimum if you develop any COVID-19 symptoms, or until the symptoms resolve, whichever is longer