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Disinfection and Electrostatic Recovery of N95 Respirators by Corona Discharge for Safe Reuse

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journal contribution
posted on 27.09.2021, 18:07 authored by Sriram S. K S Narayanan, Xudong Wang, Jose Paul, Vladislav Paley, Zijian Weng, Libin Ye, Ying Zhong
With the COVID-19 pandemic surging, the demand for masks is challenging, especially in less-developed areas across the world. Billions of used masks are threatening the environment as a new source of plastic pollution. In this paper, corona discharge (CD) was explored as a safe and reliable method for mask reuse to alleviate the situation. CD can disinfect masks and simultaneously restore electrostatic charges to prevent filtration efficiency deterioration. Electric field, ions, and reactive species generated by CD cause DNA damage and protein denaturation to effectively disinfect N95 respirators. Log reduction of 2–3 against Escherichia coli can be easily reached within 7.5 min. Log reduction of up to 6 can be reached after three cycles of treatment with optimized parameters. CD disinfection is a broad spectrum with log reduction >1 against yeast and >2.5 against spores. N95 respirators can be recharged within 30 s of treatment and the charges can be retained at a higher level than brand-new masks for at least 5 days. The filtration efficiency of masks was maintained at ∼95% after 15 cycles of treatment. CD can provide at least 10 cycles of safe reuse with benefits of high safety, affordability, accessibility, and device scalability/portability.