Article published at ats.org on June 2, 2020.
Soon we may not need to retire our protective face mask after a trip to the supermarket. Technion Professor Yair Ein-Eli is developing masks that can be heated to destroy the coronavirus while maintaining their integrity. Reusable, self-cleaning masks are essential for boosting hygiene, mitigating global mask shortages, and protecting the environment.
The new masks contain a heating element of carbon fibers and a USB port for charging. When connected to a low-current cable for less than 30 minutes, the masks heat to between 149 to 158 degrees Fahrenheit and kill viruses and bacteria. “If you are in your car and take your mask off, you can simply connect it to your cigarette lighter charger, then put it back on as if it’s new,” said Prof. Ein-Eli, dean of the Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering.
An expert in battery technology, Prof. Ein-Eli hit on the idea after considering, and rejecting, the notion of adding a battery, as they would make the masks too heavy. He wanted a mask that was convenient, so it needed to be compatible with phone chargers. He and his team experimented with different carbon fibers until finding the right one.
In collaboration with Technion biologists, they have already filed an application for a U.S. patent and are in discussions with companies about commercialization. Prof. Ein-Eli estimates that masks without ports could be updated with his heating mechanism for just 90 cents.