Israel’s Technion Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering team has developed an electronic, reusable mask.
Israeli scientists from the Technion Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering in Haifa are coming up with an innovative way to fend off the coronavirus with a new self-cleaning electric mask able to kill off pathogens with the power of a smartphone charger. The team, led by Yair Ein-Eli, has come up with a prototype that uses an electrical current from any standard 2-amp mobile charger to heat up a carbon fiber layer inside.
A Technion spokesperson said researchers “have already filed a patent application for the mask with the aim of making it commercially available in the United States for just $1.” They have not yet announced when the invention will become available in other parts of the world or what the list prices are expected to be.
The new mask will also be more environmentally friendly than what’s currently on the market, and advocates are hoping it will put a dent in the large amount of medical waste currently being generated by disposable face masks and other single-use personal protective equipment (PPE).
Yair Ein-Eli said the mask will “boost hygiene and mitigate mask shortages.” He added, “Our idea could change masks from disposable items into gadgets that people clean, meaning they wouldn’t need replacing so regularly and hospitals wouldn’t need such large supplies. We have inserted a heating element of carbon fibers and connected it to a USB input like one used to charge cellphone. The element can heat the mask to 65 to 70 degrees Celsius (149°-158° Fahrenheit), and it heats anything absorbed in the layers of the mask.”
He believes a 15- to 30-minute heating cycle would be enough to clean a mask, explaining. “If you are in your car and take your mask off, you can simply connect it to your cigarette lighter charger, and then put it back on as if it’s a new mask.”
The self-cleaning masks will look like regular face coverings, apart from an input for a USB cable. This is to power the heating element inside the mask, which gets it hot enough to kill germs. “This is the only modification needed to regular masks to make them self-cleaning,” Ein-Eli said. He added, in order to make the most impact on the healthcare industry and the waste being produced, “we’re aiming initially at medical staff who need masks and need to know that they are well-cleaned and working and functioning. I’m expecting that this won’t only help hospitals that are trying to source protective equipment, but also the environment, by stopping many masks from being thrown away.”
Also, this month, the Israeli firm Avtipus Patents and Inventions announced it had created a ‘smart’ mask with an space that opens automatically when a fork is brought close to the face. It looks like the race is on to secure a patent and get the new inventions to those who need them most.