In recent weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has forced the hands of governments across the globe to require their national constituency to wear face masks when venturing out of the house.
A man wears a face mask for fear of the coronavirus as he takes the train to Haifa, on March 17, 2020
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
Researchers at the Technion University in Haifa have developed a “self-disinfecting” face mask for people to wear amid the coronavirus pandemic, the academic institution announced Monday.
In light of recent developments at the Technion’s Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering, the university applied for a patent on March 31 in the United States – the country hit hardest by the coronavirus outbreak. As of press time, the United States has reported 1.68 million cases of the coronavirus, and registered 98,024 deaths as a direct result of the viral spread.
The disinfection process itself, takes place when a layer of carbon fibers in the mask are warmed up by plugging it into a low current source – the Technion uses a mobile phone charger as an example.
In recent weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has forced the hands of governments across the globe to require their national constituency to wear face masks when venturing out of the house, as the coronavirus and shelter-in-place orders continue to grip countries worldwide.
With regard to the masks themselves, there are many options available for the public to purchase and use. The most popular being the N95 masks, which are essential for front-line medical workers, but are single use and in short supply. This is where the Technion comes in.
The Technion’s innovative reusable face mask, developed by Dean of the Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering Prof. Yair Ein-Eli and his research group, destroys viruses that build up on the mask using low-current heat. These are viruses that would otherwise compromise the efficacy of the face mask.
When the low-current heat (2 amps) is applied to the Technion’s mask, the layer of carbon fiber coating the face covering destroys the viruses – accomplished by simply plugging the mask into an outlet, which activates the disinfection process.
“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,” the Technion said in a statement to the press.
“In the US, 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.”
SINCE THE ONSET of the coronavirus outbreak, which is believed to have originated in a wet market in Wuhan, China, and the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the Technion has been on a bit of a disinfectant technology run, creating smart innovative solutions to effectively combat the viral spread.
Last week, researchers from Technion’s Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering developed what they call “smart disinfectants,” specially formulated to destroy the coronavirus infection, which remain chemically active over an extended period of time, the university said in a press statement last week.
The research team, headed by Asst. Prof. Shady Farah, was awarded a European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Health COVID-19 Rapid Response grant in order to bring the disinfectants into market in the shortest span of time.
“We are currently producing potential substances and testing them. We plan to select the optimal substance and begin mass production in the next few months,” Farah said.
Considering that to date there are no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, effective disinfectants are deemed crucial for slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
Farah’s research team specializes in creating innovative polymers for medical use and smart drug delivery technologies. During the onset of the pandemic, Farah and his team devoted themselves to developing special anti-viral polymers that act on the viral compound – by altering and damaging its structure as well as attacking and destroying the viral envelope.
“Disinfectants have been used since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in order to prevent infection from contaminated surfaces – mainly by applying hypochlorite solutions, more commonly known as household bleach. This method has several significant disadvantages: it evaporates quickly, and breaks down rapidly when exposed to sun/UV light. Consequently, its effectiveness is limited and short-term, requiring surfaces to be disinfected several times a day,” Technion University said in a press statement.
Farah added, “although this development was accelerated due to the current coronavirus crisis, in the future it will also be effective against other microorganisms.”
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