Face masks are now a part of our lives because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while their presence is crucial in stopping the spread, they have some drawbacks.
One of these drawbacks is the fact that they are not easy to eliminate because they trap pathogens instead of destroying them.
A used mask thrown in an open trash can be a new source of contamination, which is why researchers at Forró’s lab are working on better material.
The titanium oxide nanowire membrane looks like a filter paper. However, it has big advantages on the other hand as it has antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Additionally, the new material can trap pathogens and destroy them upon application of ultraviolet light, making it reusable. The team demonstrated how the filter destroyed Escherichia coli bacteria and, degraded DNA strands in an experiment.
The filter was able to remove microorganisms in the mask itself. Although the new material has yet to be tested with SARS-CoV-2, the team believes nanowire masks could be extremely useful in stopping the spread of the virus.
It may take a while before you can purchase a nanowire mask from Walmart. However, researchers are optimistic.
As of today, this technology, exclusively under laboratory conditions, will allow a filter production capacity of approximately 100 to 200 m2 per week. This is enough to make 40,000 to 80,000 reusable masks per month.
Since single-use masks are fueling an already developing environmental crisis, the reusability of their masks is certainly a plus. A start-up by the name of Swoxid already wants to take the technology out of the lab and get off the streets.
Endre Horváth, lead author of the discovery said that the membranes could also be used in air handling applications such as ventilation and, air conditioning systems as well as in equipment of personal protection.
The study was published in Advanced Functional Materials.