Image: MIT News

LOOK: Face mask filter that inactivates viruses using heat

CAPE TOWN- During the Covid-19 pandemic the widespread adoption of effective face masks has led to a reduced rate of person-to-person transmission of coronaviruses. A team of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a mask that inactivates viruses using heat.

The prototype face mask works by incorporating a heated copper mesh. As the person wearing the mask breathes in and out, warm air flows repeatedly across the mesh, and any viral particles in the air are inactivated by the high temperatures.

Being mindful of the safety and comfort for mask users, the MIT team created the copper mesh is surrounded by neoprene, which is an insulating material that prevents the outside of the mask from becoming too hot to wear.

Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT, Michael Strano, said: “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.”

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They described the new concept and design in a paper that they posted to ArXiv. The research has been published on a preprint server but has not yet been peer-reviewed by scientific or medical experts.

This face mask could be helpful for health care professionals and as members of the public in situations where social distancing would be difficult to achieve, such as a crowded bus.

The current prototypes include a 9-volt battery, which would provide enough power to heat the mask for a few hours and would cool the air before it is inhaled.

“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,” Strano says.

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