At the University of Missouri’s Mizzou Asphalt Paving and Innovation Laboratory, Bill Battlar typically leads a research team that develops innovative ways to build better roads and stronger bridges. However, he recently refurbished his laboratory to also produce corn ethanol-based hand sanitizer for use during the COVID-19 pandemic to help increase demand for the product.
A distinctive feature of the new hand sanitizer is its ethanol base. Ethanol is a plant-based renewable energy source that is often blended with gasoline for vehicles. In the United States, it is sourced primarily from corn.
The Missouri Corn Growers Association has helped a team of scientists connect with biorefineries to produce ethanol. The head of the study stated that the hand sanitizer is chemically similar to the one used for fueling vehicles, with one significant difference.
A chemically new antiseptic is like an alcoholic product. However, it underwent further distillation and filtration to an even purer form. This pure ethanol is required to comply with the FDA’s strict hand sanitizer formula.
The author of the study stated that its development would produce “hundreds of gallons per day”, but recently there have been difficulties in obtaining containers for their product, as many sizes are currently out of print. And then the team of scientists began to look for a way out of the situation.
The last idea we are testing is to repurpose large water-cooled jugs and equip them with pump-type lids. They can be placed at building entrances and used to support facilities and groups with high disinfection needs.
Bill Buttlar, study author
In addition to the ethanol-alcohol base, hand sanitizer contains small amounts of denaturant and hydrogen peroxide to make it safe and effective, as well as glycerin and distilled water to avoid drying out people’s hands.