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USD Chemistry Department Creates Hand Sanitizer to Distribute to Campus Community

Anthony Solbach and Bruce Gray standing in the chemistry storeroom with two gallons of hand sanitizer. Anthony Solbach (left) and Bruce Gray (right) create the hand sanitizer to distribute to the campus community.

VERMILLION, S.D. – In an effort to aid the campus community during a time when hand sanitizer is scarce, the University of South Dakota Department of Chemistry developed their own sanitizer and began distributing it on campus.

The team is led by the chemistry department's research assistant professor Aravind Baride, Ph.D., NMR specialist Anjaneyulu Putta, research associate Bruce Gray and laboratory storekeeper Anthony Solbach. The reasoning behind developing the sanitizer is two-fold for the research team: keep lab equipment in optimal working condition and slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Switching the equipment off for several months is not a good option if we want it to work well after this crisis is over,” said Gray. “Our department chair, Andy Sykes, asked our team to come up with some method to protect ourselves from potentially spreading the virus as we interact with these instruments.”

After realizing the university already had access to the raw ingredients, the team created a hand sanitizer and incorporated it into their protocol to keep the typical contact surfaces disinfected.

“Our sanitizer is similar to commercial alcohol-based hand products. It’s at least 70 percent alcohol by volume with one to two percent glycerin and the rest is water,” said Gray. “When we have to interact with one of these instruments, we disinfect our hands with this solution before and after we use it.”

Other university employees saw this as an opportunity to distribute the disinfectant to the USD community.

Kevin O’Kelley, assistant vice president of research compliance, said USD President Sheila K. Gestring reached out to him asking if the chemistry department had the ability to make large batches of the hand sanitizer to distribute throughout campus.

“Once we were able to determine that the university had enough ingredients to make 40 gallons of sanitizer, we set up a distribution system,” said O’Kelley.

“Roughly two gallons of hand sanitizer has been distributed every day to the Muenster University Center information desk,” O’Kelley said. “USD has given out about 20 gallons of hand sanitizer, four ounces at a time.”

Due to limited supply, the hand sanitizer is only available to USD students, faculty and staff. 

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