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Swiss scientists to launch a self-disinfecting mask

What's New? | April 12, 2021 | By:

The mask is comprised of a multilayer textile, electrodes and a small battery. Photo: ZHAW/Hannes Heinzer.

Scientists from Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) and Swiss research and development company Osmotex AG have developed a mask that disinfects itself at the push of a button. According to information provided by ZHAW, the prototype of the mask made from electrochemical textiles has an antiviral effect of more than 99 percent. 

Prof. Chahan Yeretzian, Institute of Chemistry and Biotechnology, ZHAW, says he was inspired by a project done with Osmotex that investigated textiles to actively transport sweat to keep athletes dry. 

The mask is comprised of a special multi-layered material, as well as electrodes and a voltage source. An insulating membrane lies between two conductive layers; with an integrated battery that can be recharged via a USB port, just a few volts can be applied at the touch of a button. This generates reactive oxygen molecules that reliably inactivate viruses and bacteria, so that the surface of the mask can be sterilized in just a few minutes, even when it is being worn. The applied voltage and the reactive oxygen molecules generated are minimal and harmless to humans.

Which reactive oxygen molecules are produced and how efficient these are in inactivating the pathogens depends on the voltage and materials used. The ZHAW researchers are currently working to find the optimal mix. 

“Depending on the voltage and the structure of the textile, we can achieve virus inactivation of more than 99 percent, doing so in compliance with much higher standards and in less time than recommended for antiviral textiles,” says ZHAW project manager Sebastian Opitz. The sterilization efficiency could, therefore, be specifically adapted according to the area of application, the researchers report. 

Further applications, such as sterilizable seat covers, are being examined. The masks were expected to be on the market this spring.  

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