Green-med Volta’s chemistry students

25 Maggio 2021

The students Alessio Tatoni  (5AB), Alisia Savina  (5AB), Valeria Finizio  (5AC), Caterina Cellini (5AC), Martina Berardinelli  (5AB), Lorenzo Fratini  (5AC) and the teachers Graziella D’Ambrosio, Pierluigi De Ingeniis and Monica Bonetti ventured into the Tecnicamente competition 2021 and got the first prize, making the formulation and implementation of a solid, single-dose, antiviral, 100% biodegradable soap.

At this particular time, when the COVID-19 pandemic is changing our life habits, one of the fundamental instructions is the adoption of hygiene rules that allow us to limit the spread of the virus. The invitation to wash our hands very often has generated a real hunt for detergents, which have become an "object of desire" for many people. 

However, commercial antibacterial soaps are often rich in chemical ingredients that are harmful to human health and to the environment, such as triclosan. University of Massachusetts researchers have shown that low doses of triclosan, an antibacterial found in toothpastes, cosmetics and other products, trigger inflammation of the intestines in exposed mice. 

Washing our hands frequently is a fundamental habit to defend ourselves against COVID-19 infections. Can water be enough to remove the virus?

Simple water is not enough because it can only partially alter the interactions between viruses and skin (hydrogen bonds). Therefore, it does not guarantee to obtain proper hand hygiene. It’s necessary to use a bar soap that doesn’t damage our body or the environment.

Green-med soap is an innovative product, made up exclusively of natural ingredients.

It’s a solid single dose soap, so it’s functional, light, hygienic and easy to carry. It can be used everywhere (public toilets, offices, companies, schools).  Soaps generally can remove viruses, but this one in particular contains an essential oil that can inhibit SARS-CoV-2.  Everything is completed with a 100% “green” packaging.

There is only one study (not peer-reviewed) on the action of an essential oil against the virusSARS-CoV-2 responsible for COVID-19, published at the end of March on the open access Preprints platform by Indian researchers (Sharma and Kaur). In an experiment in vitro the researchers have shown that eucalyptol (1.8 cineole), principal component (65-80%) of the oil essential of Eucalyptus globulus, is a potential inhibitor of infection from SARS-Cov-2.

For the production of bar soaps in our laboratory we used: distilled water, olive oil, sodium hydroxide , almond oil, vegetable glycerin, eucalyptus essential oil.

We prepared a 43% sodium hydroxide solution, while weighting and warming up olive oil to 45°C, slowly we poured the sodium hydroxide solution into olive oil, mixed up the mixture and added  in essential oil and almond oil. Finally, we poured the solution into the silicone molds, let it rest for at least 48 hours and kept in a cold and dry place.

Green-med soap has numerous benefits: vegetable glycerin is a humectant and hydrating substance. It increases solubility of the active principle. It has sebum-regulating properties and admits the regeneration of epidermal cells. The soap is protective, emollient and refreshing.  Almond oil is gentle, emollient, hydrating and nourishing for the skin. Eucalyptus essential oil is one of the essential oils with an anti-Sars-CoV-2 action as it inhibits the virus replication by a bond with 3CLpro protein.

To produce 1 Kg of  “Green-med Soap” the costs to be faced are around 7 €. We got around 1,155 Kg of soap from 1Kg of olive oil.

The soap is completely biodegradable, as well as the packaging. For this purpose we will use a corn-starch based biopolymer as packaging, a recycled paper as a label and an ecological ink derived from elderberries, henna or barley bottoms to write on it.