Ending the COVID-19 pandemic will require many things — widespread vaccine rollout and treatment options, as well as a stable supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) like N95 face masks and plastic face shields. Today, most PPE is used only once, which has created an unsustainable strain on production lines and a massive spike in landfill loads.
Current methods to decontaminate PPE, like ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, heat sterilization, and chemical disinfectants, are successful at eradicating the virus but compromise the PPE material, ultimately increasing the wearer’s potential exposure to pathogens. But scientists at the Berkeley Lab, in collaboration with the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) School of Medicine, have confirmed that a new dry-sanitizing device may provide a safe and reliable solution that doesn’t alter the integrity of the PPE material.
In a paper published in Pathogens, staff scientist with the Biological Systems and Engineering division, Antoine Snijders, along with UNR collaborators, evaluated the efficacy of this device on N95 face masks (made of a porous material) and face shields (made from nonporous material). The device, about the size of a medium-sized trash bin, uses air pressure and ionization to decontaminate viruses and bacteria. Both forms of PPE were exposed to a close genetic model of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and after 15 minutes in the device, the scientists concluded that the virus had been successfully inactivated on both materials.
Read the UNR press release.
This Science Snapshot appeared in the Berkeley Lab News Center.