Willamette chemists help distillery boost sanitizer production

by Marketing & Communications,

Chemistry department helps Divine Distillers increase hand sanitizer production by donating and prepping materials. The Print Center and graphic designers provided labels.

  • Professor Kirk pours solution into a beaker
  • Professor Holman pours solution from a beaker
  • bottles of prepared and measured ingredients for sanitizer
  • professors Holman, Battle, Williamson, and Fisher stand distanced around a room with the ingredients they prepared
  • Students in PPE load ingredients into a van
  • Lab assistants prepare chemicals at distanced tables
  • Professor Fisher pours a solution measuring it
  • Lab worker in tie-dye lab coat pours solution from a beaker

Divine Distillers in Salem began making hand sanitizer free of charge in early March for first-responders, local municipal governments and public servants who need it during the Covid-19 health crisis. And even by working around the clock and pumping out 50 gallons of hand sanitizer per day, they can’t make it fast enough, said owner Jason Greenwood. 

The distillery has recently partnered with Willamette University's Department of Chemistry, which has lent its expertise and developed a quick recipe for the much-needed hand sanitizer, preparing the correct portions of glycerin, hydrogen peroxide and water in batches on campus so even more product can be finished quickly at the distillery.

“It’s solution chemistry, which we teach in our first-year chemistry courses,” said Willamette Professor of Chemistry Sarah Kirk. “We realized we could do some of this work remotely at Willamette while maintaining social distancing. It seemed like a great opportunity. We have even been able to involve some students in preparing the chemicals.”

Willamette also helped design and print labels for the hand sanitizer that includes the names of the many local wineries and breweries who have donated ingredients to help Divine Distillers make hundreds of gallons of hand sanitizer available to the community. 

“I was ecstatic to get the help,” Greenwood said. “They have been nothing but helpful. It is a really, really neat partnership.”

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