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Guy who helped invent the N95 mask says he might’ve found a way to clean and reuse them

Guy who helped invent the N95 mask says he might’ve found a way to clean and reuse them

Saad Ali Rana
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Hospitals are scrambling to sterilize and reuse N95 masks, deploying high-tech methods like ultraviolet light and concentrated hydrogen peroxide. But the father of the modern N95 mask thinks a much simpler technique could work: heating them.

In a recent article written by Vice, Peter Tsai is a material scientist credited with inventing technology that makes material used in N95 masks said that he’s researching whether blasting the masks at intense temperatures for short periods would kill the virus without degrading the mask. He hopes to publish the results of his research within days.

“We are going to use heat, [158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius)], for 30 minutes, to see if we can kill COVID-19,” he said on Tuesday afternoon. “We should get the results in one or two days.”

How will he do it?

The trick is finding the perfect temperature that kills the virus while not destroying the mask. Temperatures over 200 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius) would kill any virus — but would just about destroy an N95 mask. But Tsai said European certification requires a mask to be able to withstand 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degree Celsius) for up to 24 hours. The masks are also electrostatically charged. That allows them to suck in and trap airborne particles that might contain viruses, rather than allowing those particles to spread or even enter a person’s body. Tsai, who invented that process, said the electrostatic charge can be undone if the mask is exposed to super high temperatures, which would make the mask less effective. But at just the right temperature, heating the masks could be a life-saver.

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