Engineers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) are working to design antiviral properties into N95 masks to help the products better withstand sterilization. The researchers’ work is being funded by a National Science Foundation Rapid Response Research grant.
“Our proposed technology would make the mask self-disinfect by inactivating viral particles on contact. If successful, such a technology might enable healthcare workers to safely use the same mask for longer periods of time,” said Edmund Palermo, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering and a member of the Center for Materials, Devices, and Integrated Systems (cMDIS) at RPI in a news release. Palermo is developing the solution with Helen Zha, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering as well as member of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies at RPI.
The researchers will look at which commercially available, non-toxic and highly charged polymers could deactivate COVID-19 as well as increase a mask’s virus barrier and breathability, while preserving its protective properties during the sterilization process. Their hope is for the solution to be widely accessible on a global scale.
Following completion of their research, Palermo and Zha will collaborate with Mount Sinai Hospital to confirm the coatings feasibility in a hospital environment. “As soon as we can have modified masks validated and certified, we hope to disseminate a DIY kit for application of the coating to existing masks,” said Palermo.