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School of Public Health professor receives patent for effective, environmentally friendly surface disinfectant

Aimed at hospital acquired infections, new patent is Virender Sharma's fifth since joining Texas A&M
Virender K. Sharma works in a laboratory

Virender K. Sharma, PhD knows a thing or two about patents. Actually, it is more like a thing or five. The Texas A&M University School of Public Health professor, who is extremely well-known in his field, was recently issued his fifth patent since joining the faculty at Texas A&M in 2014.

Sharma, who has been referred to as “The Real Iron Man” for his work with ferrate, an environmentally friendly chemical for water treatment, has developed various formulations of ferrate that can be applied commercially in many ways—hospital disinfection, produce and meat sterilization, water treatment and purification, insect repellant, and possibly even cancer.

Sharma, University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, received the patent for “Ferrate composition for surface disinfection,” and it is available for licensing to potential commercial partners.

“With an increasing concern of infections related to hospital visits, the need for safe and effective disinfecting solutions has become even greater,” said Sharma.

Billions of dollars are being spent to take care of hospital acquired disinfection. Although disinfectants exist, many of them have an odor that is off-putting and can cause irritation to the eyes and the skin. They can also often destroy or damage hospital equipment and materials.

Current disinfectants have shown to not be optimally effective because busy hospital personnel do not have time to spray the disinfectant and let it sit for several minutes. This results in infectious pathogens not being destroyed, leading to possible infection in the next patient. Ferrate doesn’t have these limitations, making it ideal for use in a hospital setting.

Sharma’s work with ferrate ions, which are iron ions that have lost four or more electrons, in disinfectants has shown to be successful in the lab. Now, with a patent secured, the hope is to bring the liquid ferrate technology to market with the creation of a spray disinfectant of the ferrate solution.

Sharma serves as the director of the Program on Environment and Sustainability, which addresses environment and sustainability challenges in Texas, the United States, and internationally through the development of innovative approaches in research, training and outreach. His areas of interest include chemistry and application of ferrates; inactivation of virus, bacteria and toxins in water and air; removal of emerging contaminants such as antibiotics, estrogens and toxic metals in water; removal of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), formation, fate and toxicity of silver and gold engineered and natural nanoparticles in aquatic environments; and applications of ferrites to destroy toxins and pollutants under solar light.

Sharma’s honors include being named a Highly Cited Researcher (Top 1 %) by the Clarivate (Web of Science) and Google Scholar with more than 36,500 citations (H-Index 92). He has been globally ranked 24th in citations in the field of environmental science (Stanford University, PLOS biology October 2021). He was elected a 2021 Fellow of of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and he was named the 2019 Steven K. Dentel AEESP Award for Global Outreach, Bush Excellence Award for International Research, 2019 Bush Excellence Award for International Research, and 2019 Outstanding Distinguished Scientist by Texas A&M University’s research honor society Sigma Xi.

Additionally, Sharma is a Fellow of the American Chemical Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry; a Fall Program Chair of the Division of Environmental Chemistry, American Chemical Society; and a recipient of Invited Professorship in France and the President International Fellowship, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Learn more about Sharma’s innovations, or view the entire Texas A&M Innovation portfolio at

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