Medical face masks can feel nearly impossible to keep on effectively.
However Hyo-Jick Choi, a biomedical engineer and professor at the University of Alberta in Canada, says he has a possible solution: A mask that can eliminate harmful pathogens, rather than simply obstruct them.
Since the molecular structure of salt is crystalline, its tough, sharp corners can pierce infections, rendering them unviable, Choi says.
His team has actually been checking salt-coated masks in the lab for the past few years, and found that they can suspend three strains of the influenza virus. The group released those preliminary findings in the journal Scientific Reports in2017
They think the pathogen-neutralizing technology might significantly enhance infectious-disease avoidance efforts and want to bring the masks to market within the next 18 months.
How the salt-coated mask works
Infections and other pathogens travel either through the air; in droplets such as saliva or phlegm from coughing, sneezing, speaking, or breathing; or on surface areas.
” The coronavirus-carrying beads, expelled from coughing, sneezing, speaking or breathing, can stay on the surface of the masks,” Choi told Service Insider. “The greatest technical difficulty of the existing surgical mask and n95 respirator is that they can not kill the virus resting on their surface, which increases the chance of the contact transmission.”
However when a virus-carrying bead experiences a mask covered in Choi’s salt service, he states, it begins to soak up the salt. Then once the liquid evaporates, all that stays is the virus and the crystallized salt– which slices through the infection, neutralizing it.
The process takes as long as it takes the water to evaporate, Choi stated.
Stopped working experiments triggered a concept for new masks
Choi stated he got the concept for a salt-coated mask from the failure of a different experiment.
He was trying to develop oral vaccinations that are easier to deliver than shots.
” Crystal development in sugar-based solutions destabilizes vaccines,” Ilaria Rubino, a University of Alberta Ph.D student in Choi’s laboratory group, informed Business Insider in an e-mail. “We wondered: Would then crystal re-growth of salt have the ability to inactivate infections?”
The group began establishing a salt movie coating and using it to the fibers of mask filters.
Choi says the innovation is commercially scalable
Rubino stated the simplicity of the salt-coating solution makes it easy to integrate into existing mask manufacturing procedures.
” Among the benefits of our technology is that it is not made complex, yet it is robust,” she stated. “This would need very low capital expense and the product (salt) itself is economical.”
She added that the group wishes to deal with companies to start producing the gadgets commercially within two years.
” This also implies that salt-coated masks could be stocked in preparation for pandemics and epidemics,” Rubino stated. “They could be easily used at the time of break out, regardless of the illness.”