The face masks that can 'kill COVID-19' with a phone charger
Researchers say they have developed a reusable face mask that can kill the novel coronavirus with heat drawn from a cell phone charger.
The disinfection process, which involves a specially designed mask with a USB port, takes about 30 minutes, Yair Ein-Eli, the professor who led the research team at Israel's Technion University in Haifa, told Reuters.
The mask connects to a power source, such as a standard cell phone charger, heating an inner layer of carbon fibers to 70 degrees Celsius – high enough to kill viruses.
Ein-Eli said that because disposable masks were in high demand globally, they were not economically or environmentally friendly.
"You have to make it reusable and friendly, and this is our solution," he said.
The prototype resembles a standard N95 face mask, with a valve at the front and bands to hold it in place around the head. Between the mask's material coverings are multiple coils that are heated when connected to the power source.
Allon Moses, an infectious diseases expert at Jerusalem's Hadassah Medical Center, said there was "no question" that a half-hour's exposure to a 70-degree heat would kill the coronavirus.
But he cautioned that repeated heating could "damage the mask's paper or fabric and spoil its ability to protect from diseases in the future."
During testing, the prototype was exposed to 20 heating cycles, each for half an hour, with no impact on durability, Ein-Eli said.
"We can guarantee it up to a few dozen cycles, without any risk," he added.
In late March, the researchers applied for a patent for the mask in the U.S. and say they are discussing commercializing opportunities with the private sector. It will likely sell at a $1 premium over the price of a typical disposable face mask, the researchers added.