Protective mask kills viruses and bacteria
November 25, 2020
EDMONTON – A researcher at the University of Alberta is being recognized for her innovative work to develop a first-of-its-kind face mask capable of killing both viruses and bacteria within five minutes of surface contact. In addition to helping stop the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19, the flu and strep throat, the masks are also extremely breathable.
The breakthrough work has earned Ilaria Rubino (pictured) the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation – International, awarded by Mitacs, a national innovation organization that fosters growth by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions. The award will be presented at a virtual ceremony taking place on November 24.
Rubino – a researcher working under Biomedical Engineer and Assistant Professor Hyo-Jick Choi in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering at University of Alberta – is being recognized for developing a salt coating that can be applied to surgical masks and respirators to effectively kill viruses and bacteria before they have a chance to penetrate the coverings.
When airborne pathogen-carrying droplets land on the salt coating, they are destroyed as the salt grows back, Rubino explained.
“First the salt dissolves in the droplets, then as the liquid evaporates, the salt crystals grow back with sharp edges, severely damaging the bacteria or virus,” she said.
Whereas current protective face coverings are limited to a single use and must be handled carefully to control virus or bacteria spread, the salt-coated masks inactivate pathogens trapped on their surface, making them safe to use more than once without the need to undergo decontamination.