Reusable face masks that kill pathogens


Researchers develop a reusable filter paper made from titanium dioxide nanowires that is capable of trapping and killing pathogens like the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Personal protective equipment is proving essential in slowing the progress of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Face masks are mandatory in many places, and while they are essential to protecting vulnerable members of our society, disposable masks pose a nuanced problem.

“In a hospital setting, these masks are placed in special bins and handled appropriately,” says László Forró, head of EPFL’s Laboratory of Physics of Complex Matter. “However, their use in the wider world — where they are tossed into open waste bins and even left on the street — can turn them into new sources of contamination.” This is because these masks only trap pathogens and don’t do anything to destroy them.

For this reason, Forró and his team of researchers sought to develop a reusable mask that possess antibacterial and antiviral properties. Their findings were recently reported in Advanced Functional Materials, and describe the fabrication of masks from titanium dioxide nanowires, which when exposed to ultraviolet radiation, produce reactive oxygen species, such as hydrogen peroxide and hydroxyl radicals, to kill pathogens.

“Since our filter is exceptionally good at absorbing moisture, it can trap droplets that carry viruses and bacteria,” said Forró. “This creates a favorable environment for the oxidation process, which is triggered by light.”

As a proof-of-concept, the titanium dioxide masks were shown to effectively kills E.coli. bacteria when the contaminated mask was exposed to 60 seconds of UV light. Based on these results, Forró and his team speculate that the masks would be effective against other pathogens, such as SARS-CoV-2, however, these experiments are still required.

Since the assembly of the closely knit titanium dioxide nanowires is quite stable, these masks also minimize user risk, as wearers would not be inhaling harmful particles or fibers that often makeup mask filters.

The team also says that manufacturing their masks is easily scalable: “The technology we propose, exclusively under laboratory conditions, will allow for the filter production capacity of about 100–200 m2 per week. This is enough to fabricate 40 000–80 000 reusable masks monthly,” they wrote. They also predict that their masks could be sterilized and re-used up to 1000 times, reducing environmental and public health issues related to the waste produced from disposable masks.

Since there is currently no viable treatment or vaccine available for COVID-19, prevention is our strongest defense. Developing safe, effective, and sustainable solutions to help us achieve this are important in these uncertain times.

Reference: Endre Horváth, et al. ‘Photocatalytic Nanowires‐Based Air Filter: Towards Reusable Protective Masks‘ Advanced Functional Materials (2020). DOI: 10.1002/adfm.202004615

Latest articles

Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday

The latest: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam are asking Canadians to remain vigilant...

Tahlequah, The Orca Famous For Grieving Her Dead Calf, Has ‘Spunky’ Baby Boy

A female orca known best for carrying her dead calf with her for more than two weeks in apparent grief is now mother...

Amy Schumer’s Son Gene Says “Mom”

Celebrity·Updated 3 minutes ago. Posted 3 minutes ago ...

EHT data show how the glowing ring around M87’s black hole wobbles

Astrophysicists have gotten their first direct view of a supermassive black hole’s appearance changing over time.  The black hole at the center of the...

Related articles

Leave a reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here