Swanson Lab Repurposes Equipment to Produce Sanitizer for UPMC

Götz Veser

When labs at the Swanson School of Engineering closed for research purposes, Götz Veser (pictured), the Nickolas DeCecco Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and associate director of the Center for Energy, looked for a way his equipment could be put to use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Riddhesh Patel, one of Veser’s graduate students, had an idea: Use the lab’s large-scale batch reactors—essentially enormous stirred glass containers—to blend hand sanitizer for UPMC, which is experiencing a severe shortage for their medical personnel.

After receiving permission to return to the Pittsburgh campus, Goetz, Patel and graduate student Nasser Al Azri set to work. Al Azri maintains and cleans the equipment with support from Patel, as the scope of the effort has increased.

Goetz supervises production, solicits donations of chemicals needed and shuttles the sanitizer to UPMC’s South Side operation. “I do what any good professor does: Stay out of the way and make sure that my students have what they need to do their good work,” he said.

To date, the lab has produced about 75 gallons of sanitizer and just received a significant donation of ingredients, which should yield another 50 gallons. The lab plans to continue to produce sanitizer as long as it can get supplies.