Credit: University of Michigan

New tech face masks that uses an ‘air curtain’

CAPE TOWN – A new face mask that’s under development that makes use of a headset device that neutralises and blocks airborne pathogens.

A company founded by a University of Michigan engineering professor called Taza Aya LLC, is an awardee in the Invisible Shield QuickFire Challenge which is a competition created by Johnson & Johnson Innovation in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), with the programme looking for innovative technology providing protection from airborne viruses.

“We’re looking to move beyond what everyone knows as the current standards for personal respiratory protections: the N95 masks, cloth masks and neck gaiters we’ve come to rely on in 2020,” Herek Clack, professor and Taza Aya’s CEO and co-founder, said. “These all rely on the conventional method of particle filtration via a largely impermeable medium. We’re looking at an entirely different paradigm here.”

The design of the protective ‘face mask’ is similar to the ordinary face visor shields but instead of a physical plastic visor, the mask pulls air from behind the wearer into an onboard cold plasma module that inactivates all viruses and then pushes the air down from the forehead area to the front of the nose and mouth creating an ‘air curtain’ pushing infected particles away before they can be inhaled.

Credit: University of Michigan

Although the air curtain concept would not be advised for front-line medical workers, as it does not protect against biofluids, Clack and his research team at the Universit of Michigan have found that their cold plasma particle filters demonstrated the inactivation of airborne viruses by 99.9 percent in a fraction of a second and could warrant further research.

“We believe there is great value in providing situational access to the face while continuing to reduce the risk associated with aerosols” said Michael Drake, co-founder and COO of Taza Aya. “Dental and orthodontic activities provide great examples where patient-based physical barrier risk reduction is not practical. Restaurant patrons do not have the ability to wear a mask the entirety of their experience – our air curtain will enable individuals to enjoy these environments with an added layer of protection.”

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