Face masks have become an indispensable part of human life in COVID-19. This has led to intense R&D globally. And one such initiative is to create a mask that deactivates COVID-19 viruses using heat. A team of scientists at MIT are working to build a reusable face mask embedded with a heated copper mesh.
The copper mesh is bounded by neoprene, insulating sustenance that halts the outside of the mask from becoming too hot to wear.
When a wearer will wear the mask and breathes in and out, air recurrently flows across the mesh, and any viral airborne particles will be decelerated and inactivated by the mesh and high temperatures.
Such a mask could be valuable for health care professionals and public members in situations where social distancing is mute.
The idea of this protective mask is completely new. Instead of primarily block the COVID-19 virus, it lets the virus to go through the mask but slows and inactivates it.
Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT, said, “The masks that we wear now are designed to capture some of the viruses. They offer protection, but there’s no one thinking about inactivating the virus and sterilizing the air. That surprised me.”
Like other filtration masks available in the market that function by filtration, filtering particles by size, or electric charge, this innovative mask has a different mechanism. It works mostly by thermal inactivation.
MIT scientists calculated how rapidly COVID-19 degrade at diverse temperatures. After trapping conditions, research showed that a temperature of about 90 degrees Celsius could attain between a thousandfold and millionfold reduction in viral particles, liable on the final mask size.
They also exhibited that that temperature could be attained by running an electrical current across a 0.1-millimeter thick copper mesh or thermoelectric heater, powered by a small battery. The current prototypes include a 9-volt battery, which would provide enough power to heat the mask for a few hours and cool the air before it is inhaled.
“N95 respirators, surgical masks, and cloth masks are effective and must be used during the COVID-19 pandemic as directed, but one possible benefit of heated masks is that as they kill the virus, they don’t need to be decontaminated or thrown away after use. Moreover, they may offer extra protection by eliminating the virus rather than only filtering it,” Strano added.
“What we show is that it’s possible to wear something on your face that’s not too cumbersome, that can allow you to breathe medically sterile air. The prospect of being able to breathe in medically sterile air and breathe out medically sterile air, protecting the people around you, and protecting yourself, is just the next step. It’s better technology.”
The team has labeled the new concept and design in a paper that they posted to bioRxiv, an online preprint server, and they have also submitted the paper to a peer-reviewed journal.
Other authors comprise MIT graduate students Daniel Lundberg, Xinyao Liang, and Xiaojia Jin; undergraduate Rosalie Phillips; postdoc Dorsa Parviz; and Jacopo Buongiorno, the TEPCO Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT.