Scientists at MIT have designed a new face mask that can not only filter out the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, but also neutralize it using heat.
According to the researchers, the new mask incorporates a hot copper mesh and does not need to be taken apart or thrown away after use.
As the person wearing the mask breathes in and out, air is repeatedly circulated through the trap and any virus particles in the air are slowed down and deactivated by the trap and the high temperatures, said Researchers.
He said such a mask could be useful for medical professionals, as well as members of the public in a situation where social unrest would be difficult to achieve, such as a crowded bus.
Michael Strano, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said: “This is an entirely new mask concept in that it does not primarily block the virus. It actually lets the virus go through the mask, but slows it down and turns it off. ” In America.
Researchers have started building prototypes and are expected to start testing them soon.
The new design is described in an article published on the ArXiv online preprint server and submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.
“The masks we wear now are designed to catch certain viruses. They offer protection, but no one really thinks about neutralizing the virus and sterilizing the air. It surprised me. Strano said.
Researchers set out to design a mask that would kill the virus using heat.
They decided to use a copper network as a heating and capturing element, and performed mathematical modeling to determine the optimum temperature range needed to kill coronaviruses entering or exiting natural respiration.
Lead author of the study, MIT graduate student Samuel Forcher, said: “Most masks today filter out particles by filter, shape, or electrical charge.
“This mask relies on a different mechanism and works primarily by thermal inactivation,” Mr. Foucher said.
The researchers calculated the rate at which coronaviruses fall below various temperatures and trapping conditions, and they found that a temperature of around 90 ° C allowed a thousand to million-fold decrease in viral particles depending on the final size of the mask. Can.
They also showed that the temperature could be reached by conducting an electric current through a 0.1 millimeter thick copper mesh or a thermoelectric heater powered by a small battery.
The current prototype includes a 9-volt battery, which will provide enough power to heat the mask for a few hours and cool the air before breathing.
“Of course, we have to pay attention to the safety and comfort of mask wearers. The air will be cooled after viral inactivity to make the mask comfortable and safe to use, ”Mr. Foucher said.
The researchers were able to increase the efficiency of virus inactivation by taking advantage of breathing to create a type of reactor known as a reverse flow reactor.
As the person wearing the mask inhales and exhales, the airflow is continuously reversed, allowing any virus in the mask to pass through the trap multiple times and it is more likely to become inactive.
The researchers said clean air circulates on both sides.
“This design means you can wear a small mask, something that fits your face, but the virus can spend more time idling it without a reverse reactor design,” Strano said.
Copper mesh is an insulating material surrounded by noprene, which prevents the outer part of the mask from getting too hot to be worn.
N95 respirators, surgical masks, and sheet masks are effective and should be used during an outbreak when directed, Strano said, but one of the potential benefits of hot masks is that, because they kill the viruses, they must rot or be thrown away. Not removed after use.
They can provide additional protection by removing viruses rather than filtering them.
“What we’re showing is that it’s very hard to wear something on your face. It may actually allow you to breathe medically sterile air, ”Strano said.
The researchers said heated masks would be more expensive than cloth masks or surgical masks, but they can be useful in situations where the risk of exposure is high and cost is a concern.
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