Reusable masks to fight coronavirus: a Swiss start-up has the solution

Swoxid, a cleantech start-up spun from the Laboratory of Physics of Complex Matter at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, has developed the first prototypes of a reusable antiviral mask.

A discarded mask
It is estimated that about 89 million medical masks per month will be needed globally for healthcare workers to properly respond to the coronavirus outbreak. (Generic image)

The current COVID-19 pandemic is made even worse by shortages of critical medical supplies, including protective masks. Many healthcare workers around the world are forced to reuse disposable masks multiple times, increasing the risk of infection. But what if face masks could be safely reused more than 1000 times? EPFL spin-off Swoxid has recently fabricated the first prototypes of a UV light sterilizable antiviral mask.

Their technology is based on an innovative nanoporous aerogel composite membrane which – upon solar or UV irradiation – makes contaminated masks safe by inactivating infectious biological agents such as bacteria and viruses.

In addition to addressing the current mask shortage crisis, Swoxid’s solution could also reduce the public health issues related to the millions of masks discarded daily outside of medical environment, that can potentially become a vector for diseases as pathogens are not inactivated.

The masks are not commercialized yet, but the patented aerogel raw material which the filters are made of can be produced in scalable quantities. Swoxid is currently looking for research and industrial partners in order to speed-up the R&D and commercialization efforts of their promising gear.

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