Health & Wellbeing

Salty masks could kill coronavirus

Salty masks could kill coronav...
Conventional masks simply trap live viruses, which can then end up on users' fingers
Conventional masks simply trap live viruses, which can then end up on users' fingers
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Conventional masks simply trap live viruses, which can then end up on users' fingers
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Conventional masks simply trap live viruses, which can then end up on users' fingers

Should you be in China right now, you'll see a lot of people wearing surgical masks to protect themselves against coronavirus. A Canadian scientist claims that such masks may actually do more harm than good, if handled improperly – so he's created a coating that could reportedly change that.

A biomedical engineer based out of the University of Alberta, Asst. Prof. Hyo-Jick Choi states that there are two main problems with using surgical masks for protection against coronavirus.

For one thing, they're only capable of capturing large airborne virus-laden water droplets. Respiratory viruses such as coronavirus, unfortunately, can also be spread via much smaller aerosol droplets, which are able to make their way through the masks' pores. Devices known as N95/N99 respirators are able to filter out aerosols, but they're not as breathable as masks, plus they're expensive and impractical for everyday use.

The other problem with masks lies in the fact that, while they may trap some viruses, they don't kill them. As a result, when people remove and discard of used masks, the viruses could be transferred from those masks and onto their fingers or other commonly-touched surfaces.

With these problems in mind, Choi and colleagues designed a virus-killing coating that can be applied to conventional mask filtration material. He tells us that it's made up mainly of two salts – sodium chloride and potassium chloride.

When a droplet of any size comes into contact with the coating, the salts dissolve into it. As that droplet subsequently evaporates, the dissolved salts within it crystallize – the sharp edges of the crystals stab into any viruses that may be present, killing them.

"We’ve tested our system on three different influenza viruses and have shown that the virus on the surface of a coated contaminated mask is inactive within five minutes and completely destroyed within 30 minutes," says Choi. He believes that the technology should be equally effective against coronavirus.

The university is now looking for corporate partners to help commercialize the coating, with hopes of having a product on the market within 12 to 18 months. In the meantime, Choi recommends that users of conventional masks not touch the filtration material itself, always wash their hands before and after handling a mask, never store used masks in places such as pockets, and replace masks after each use.

The research is being funded by Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada. It's previously brought us things such as an augmented reality feedback system for the training of athletes, and a computer vision-based flight data recorder.

Source: Mitacs

6 comments
paul314
Do we even know what the survival time of coronaviruses is outside a body?
myale
Story is pretty useless without a control reference - as said in previous comment - how long do the viruses actually live on the masks before the coating
buzzclick
>inactive within five minutes and completely destroyed within 30 minutes...those are the crucial numbers here, and with only salt compounds: simple and effective. Most people in this kind of predicament wear a mask for much longer than 30 minutes. This and thorough hand-washing could be game-changing habits in these kinds of contagious situations.
Andrej Radoš
No need to commercialize, just out of altruistic goodness spread the knowledge that spraying masks with the salty soultion is useful. Knowledge is only honourable if given away for free.
Wfggoodwill Bonnreyes
Can coronavirus thrive in a salty environment? Can somebody please provide some statements. Thank you and God Bless us all
Maryif
Why the hell are we banning people from and arresting people for swimming in the ocean then!?!?