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Rider University chemistry professors make hand sanitizer for hospitals

Rider chemistry faculty produce hand sanitizer in the university’s general chemistry lab which they are donating to local hospitals.

Hospitals are having trouble finding enough personal protective equipment, but they won’t have as much trouble finding hand sanitizer, thanks to the efforts of two Rider University chemistry professors.

Dr. Jamie Ludwig and Dr. Danielle Jacobs, who teamed up to make hand sanitizer in Rider University’s general chemistry lab, delivered their first batch of hand sanitizer to Capital Health Medical Center in Hopewell Township last week.

Jacobs, who is an associate professor of chemistry, urged Ludwig to make hand sanitizer after hearing that businesses, such as distilleries, were converting their facilities to manufacture it. Academic laboratories are also well-suited to make hand sanitizer, using the chemicals on hand.

“This is something we should do,” Jacobs said.

The chemicals are available in Rider University’s laboratories, and they are not being used while the university is closed.

The recipe to make hand sanitizer is simple and safe, the professors said. It requires mixing ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, glycerol and sterile distilled water – all of which are commonly found in the laboratory.

Ethanol, which is a form of alcohol, is the active ingredient in hand sanitizer, said Ludwig, who is an assistant professor of chemistry. Hand sanitizer must contain at least 60% alcohol.

If the concentration of alcohol is too low, it won’t kill the virus, Ludwig said. If there is too much alcohol, it loses its effectiveness and evaporates quickly. It can shock the virus without killing it.

Hydrogen peroxide is an antibacterial product, and glycerol creates the gel-like consistency that makes hand sanitizer easy to apply, Ludwig said. It has to be perfect in order to be effective.

Although most Rider University faculty are under the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Phil Murphy, Ludwig is allowed to go to the laboratory to check on bacterial cultures for a research project. She volunteered to make the hand sanitizer in the laboratory.

Ludwig said the process of making hand sanitizer probably took longer than it should have, but she wanted it to be perfect. It must have the correct amount of alcohol, considering that it is a life-or-death issue, she said.

“I hope this (project) will be helpful. Everyone wishes they could do something right now, even just to stay busy and have a purpose,” Ludwig said.

Ludwig and Jacobs are not the only Rider University professors who are seeking to be helpful.

Dr. John Bochanski, who is the chairman of Rider University’s Department of Computer Science and Physics, borrowed a 3D printer belonging to Rider University to manufacture eight splitters for Capital Health Systems in Mercer County.

Through a friend, Bochanski learned of a website that provided access to 3D printer plans to create ventilator splitters. A splitter allows two patients to share a ventilator, which helps them to breathe.

Bochanski reached out to Capital Health Systems officials, and the supply chain director told him that the hospital system could use eight splitters. They would only be used in a worst-case scenario.

Although he has met Capital Health Systems’ goal, Bochanski said he would continue to print ventilator splitters. He hopes to deliver them to other hospitals in Mercer County.

“This project is really just an example of how we can use the resources we have at Rider University to give back to our communities,” Bochanski said.

 

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