Researchers Develop Self-disinfecting, Reusable Protective Face Mask

Prototype of the mask. Courtesy of American Technion Society

Researchers from the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering have developed a self-disinfecting, reusable protective face mask. The disinfection process occurs when a layer of carbon fibers in the mask is heated using a low current source, such as an electric mobile phone charger. A patent application for the invention has been submitted in the United States.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for protective face masks has skyrocketed in recent months. Wearing masks is now a requirement, along with social distancing and hygiene measures. There is a wide range of masks available, from homemade cloth masks to the N95 masks used by medical professionals and frontline responders. Authorities insist on the correct usage of masks, which means replacing them daily, even if they are kept clean and dry during the day.

These regulations, along with the urgent need to provide masks for the medical staff caring for coronavirus patients, has led to a surge in demand for these masks and a search for manufacturers and suppliers. In the U.S., for example, approximately 3.5 billion masks are required in order to protect against an acute epidemic – 100 times more than the number of masks readily available. An immediate shortage of masks also occurred in Israel and was accelerated when the Ministry of Health announced that mask-wearing is mandatory.

Professor Yair Ein-Eli, dean of the faculty of materials science and engineering, developed a reusable face mask that can be heated in a controlled manner – a process that destroys viruses that have accumulated on the mask – and renders it reusable. The new technology is based on an inner layer of carbon fibers spread within the mask in a homogeneous manner. When the layer of fibers is heated using a low current (2 amps) from a readily available source – such as a mobile phone charger, USB connection, or other mobile electronic device chargers – the viruses are destroyed.

Ein-Eli’s research group created the mask prototype and tested it together with Professor Debbie Lindell and Professor Oded Beja from the Faculty of Biology. A patent was submitted in the U.S. on March 31, and the research group is currently discussing commercialization with industrial companies.

Source: American Technion Society

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