The National Science Foundation awarded Delaware State University a $498,372 research grant fund in support of project that will focus on the capabilities of laser in killing viruses.

The project is a collaborative project involving the University’s Division of Physical and Computational Sciences and its Laboratory of Quantum Optics, the Food Safety Laboratory on campus, along with the Center for Advanced Studies in Photonic Research at the University of Maryland — Baltimore County.

The three-year grant will fund a project titled “Investigation of Enhancer Free Photo-generated Singlet Oxygen.” The grant comes through the NSF’s HBCU-UP Program, which is part of the agency’s effort to assist Historically Black Colleges and Universities in strengthening its science, technology, engineering and mathematics education as well as its research capacity.

Aristides Marcano, professor of physics, is the principal investigator of the research grant. He said the project will focus on how lasers kill viruses.

“We know that laser can kill viruses, but we want to look at why it does,” said Marcano.

The hypothesis of Marcano and his researchers is that singlet oxygen can be produced without any catalyst in virus samples. If this is proven by their research, it will be a novel scientific finding and could potentially lay the groundwork for a chemical-free means of sanitizing foods and biologicals. It could also provide the principles for developing a new low-cost way of conserving and disinfecting food, blood and other pharmaceutical and biomedical products, making them free of viruses and other pathogens.

The project will also engage Delaware State University students in the research work.