Sat 24 October 2020:
Engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) designed a heated mask that would filter and inactivate the coronavirus, reducing the risk of infection.
According to Sci-Tech Daily, the reusable mask will include a heated copper mesh that will be powered by a battery.
According to the research, the mesh and high temperatures would inactivate viral particles of the virus as airflows repeatedly across the mesh while the person wearing the mask breathes in and out.
This kind of mask would be helpful for health care workers or for people that have to be in places where social distancing would be difficult to achieve.
“This is a completely new mask concept in that it doesn’t primarily block the virus. It actually lets the virus go through the mask, but slows and inactivates it,” said Michael Strano, one of the MIT professors.
‘The vast majority of masks today function by filtration, filtering particles by size or electric charge,’ explained paper author and chemical engineer Samuel Faucher.
In their study, the researchers created mathematical models to determine the optimum temperature range the mesh will need to reach in order to thermally inactivate coronavirus particles as they are breathed in or out of the mask.
They determined that a temperature of around 194°F (90°C) can reduce viral concentration in the air by between a factor of a thousand and a million — depending on how big the mask itself is.
The team were also able to improve the mask’s efficiency by creating it as a so-called ‘reverse flow reactor’ — in which breathing in and out causes the air flow through the mesh to reverse, passing viral particles back across the mesh many times.
The air enters and leaves the outside of the mask at the side, near the ears.
‘This design means you can wear a small mask, something that will fit on your face, but the virus can spend much more time getting deactivated than it would without the reverse flow reactor design,’ said Professor Strano.
He noted that the masks people are wearing now do protect them from getting infected, but there’s no one really thinking about inactivating the virus and sterilizing the air.
“That surprised me,” he added.
The researchers are planning to launch testing for the masks very soon as they have already begun building prototypes.