JMU Chemistry Lends a Hand – Sanitizer, that is

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Date: April 13, 2020

With its labs shut down for the foreseeable future, the James Madison University (JMU) Chemistry Department has found a way to use some of the chemicals it normally uses for teaching to aid medical workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It turns out some of those chemicals — ethanol, glycerol and hydrogen peroxide — can be combined to make hand sanitizer, which is in short supply in the central Shenandoah Valley as it is in much of the country.

“When I saw that hand sanitizer was needed, I asked our stockroom manager, Brian Kane, to do an inventory of the departmental supplies that we would need to make the sanitizer according to the WHO recipe and to calculate how much we could make with our unused chemicals,” said Linette Watkins, unit head for the JMU Chemistry Department.

Kane determined the department had enough chemicals in-store to make about 100 liters but could make perhaps double that amount if it could come up with more glycerol.  “When the department faculty found out that we needed glycerol to make more, they donated more glycerol from their own labs to increase our capacity and we hope to make at least 200 liters,” Watkins said.

Kane is pulling the supplies from the inventory, making labels and leaving them for Chakree Tanjaroon, an instrument chemist, who is making and bottling the solutions, Watkins said.

Tanjaroon, who also is in charge of checking the building and helping keep equipment safe while the department lowers its energy expenditures, has been working alone to abide by social distancing protocols and has been making 30 liters a day. The department donated its first 50 liters last week to Augusta Health.

Watkins said sanitizer also will be made for Sentara Rockingham Memorial Hospital and local doctors’ offices. Students may be employed to make some no-contact deliveries in the next few weeks.

Media contact: Eric Gorton, 540-908-1760,


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