<new reusable face mask discoverd >
Scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed a
sustainable and green thanks to extract high-quality antimicrobial compounds from seeds.
This new antimicrobial compound is employed by global apparel and textiles manufacturer Ghim Li Group
(GLG) as a cloth finishing in their reusable masks sold locally and overseas. The masks were distributed
to Singaporeans and permanent residents last month as a part of the Government’s strategy to fight the
The natural antimicrobial compound developed by NTU scientists contains powerful antioxidants found in
seeds. In lab tests done at NTU, the compound killed 99 per cent of harmful bacteria by disrupting their
Obtaining high-value ingredients from organic parts discarded during food processing, like stems, seeds
and husks, is an innovative way which will contribute towards a sustainable circular food economy and a
key research focus of NTU’s Food Science and Technology Programme.
Using green processes to get these ingredients also will be more sustainable, as typical antimicrobial
solutions require the utilization of harsh chemicals like solvents or use ions obtained from various metals
In contrast, Professor William Chen, Director of NTU’s Food Science and Technology Programme, and
his team used ball-milling, referred to as solid-state synthesis, with clean water processes to extract the
antimicrobial compounds from the discarded husks of seeds without the necessity for harsh chemicals.
As the natural compound is taken into account non-toxic for humans, it's huge potential to be applied in
other sorts of products, like personal protective equipment, sports apparel, paints, and disinfectants.
With the new technology, GLG has plans to capture new business opportunities, expanding their product
offerings to masks and even medical uniforms, beyond the normal apparel products.
Products from GLG are distributed worldwide, to a variety of USA and Europe shop retailers, major
department shops and supermarket chains.
Antimicrobial finish by NTU scientists
When in touch with bacteria, the compound binds to the bacteria wall, inactivating the protein and
enzymes on the wall, thus inhibiting bacterial growth. within the tests, the compound was shown to be
ready to create a “zone of inhibition”, where both S. Aureus and E. Coli bacteria growth weren't ready to
penetrate this zone.
The NTU research team was initially targeting to make a replacement generation of sustainable anti-
microbial food packaging. But following discussions with GLG, the newly discovered compound found
another important application in reusable masks during this COVID-19 pandemic.
NTU Senior vice chairman (Research) Professor Lam Khin Yong, said: “As a number one research-
intensive university, NTU is proud that our research efforts have yielded a valuable resource for
Singapore within the fight against infectious diseases. This innovation was an unexpected results of
research in food science being applied in reusable masks utilized in the fight against COVID-19. this is
often an excellent example of how academia and industry can work together to make value for
Singapore’s economy and help Singapore companies become more competitive.”
Applications beyond masks by Ghim Li
Ms Estina Ang, Founder, Chairman & CEO, Ghim Li Group, said: “Ghim Li Group is thrilled to start our
new journey with NTU on our R&D collaboration as we still reinvent our business model to develop new
products and explore new business markets.
“With this know-how using organic sustainable argri-waste, we are ready to apply this on new sustainable
products using natural cotton fibres and sustainable chemicals which is in line with Ghim Li Group’s
sustainable initiatives to guard the environment by reducing global waste and carbon footprint. we'll still
enhance our R&D efforts on sustainability to realize our Ghim Li Group’s motto “锦衣利民” to try to to our
part using our products to profit mankind by saving the environment.”
The discussion to use NTU’s antimicrobial technology started when Ms Ang heard about the sustainable
waste-to-resource food research done by Prof Chen’s team.
Ms Ang, an NTU alumnus and a 2019 recipient of the Nanyang Alumni Achievement Award recognised
for her outstanding contribution to her field, then contacted NTUitive, NTU’s enterprise and innovation
company, to accumulate the antimicrobial technology and its knowhow.
GLG is now looking to start a future research partnership with NTU to further research and develop
innovative antimicrobial compounds and to spot future applications.
Prof Chen, who is additionally the Michael Fam Chair Professor in Food Science and Technology, said:
“Our new antimicrobial compound assigned to Ghim Li Group was been tested in our labs to be safe for
humans and may be sustainably produced in large quantities using green processes. We hope to
continue this productive partnership where we will develop sustainable innovations which will keep
Singapore at the forefront of a circular economy.”
One potential area of research in future, might be to further study the properties of the antimicrobial
compound and its effects on different bacteria and viruses. This follows the findings of a peer-reviewed
paper in 2005 by Taipei’s National Health Research Institutes.
The Taiwanese study reported that similar compounds found in black and green teas (also found
commonly in seeds) demonstrated inhibitory activity against a protease that was deemed critical to the
viral replication of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV).