University hospitals teams up with NASA for PPE sanitization technology


University Hospitals (UH) and the NASA Glenn Research Center are partnering to test out two potential methods for decontaminating disposable masks.

UH Innovation Center Managing Director Kipum Lee said that coronavirus cases are on the rise in Ohio and across Northeast Ohio, including in Cleveland. University Hospitals has enough personal protective equipment on hand for now.

Figure: The decontamination room at University Hospitals where N95 masks are disinfected using the peracetic acid method.
Courtesy: University Hospitals

The decontamination methods are a “contingency plan” in case of a future shortage.

“We did this out of our own necessity to ensure we could have all of the best solutions available to us as we’re going through COVID-19,” Lee said.

One method being tested uses peracetic acid, a chemical disinfectant used in healthcare, food, and water treatment. Tests show the acid is effective for five cycles, according to UH Dr. Shine Raju.

The decontamination takes roughly an hour and 15 minutes each cycle, Raju said. The acid kills spores and bacteria on the mask before degrading into acetic acid, water vapor and oxygen. A single cycle can disinfect between 1,800 and 2,000 masks, he said.

The machine used for peracetic acid cleaning is commercially available, Raju said, and some hospitals already use it to disinfect rooms.