Surgical masks are typically meant to be worn once and thrown away. Even when worn, they are usually recommended to be worn for a few hours. This wasn’t an issue if we were to rewind the clock back to 2019, where protective masks were plentiful, but with the coronavirus outbreak, these masks have become a scarce commodity.
They are also extremely crucial, especially for frontliners like doctors and nurses who have to see and treat sick patients daily, but thanks to a dinner conversation between a husband and wife, Kevin and Laurie Hommemathey, have figured out a way to safely decontaminate N95 masks which in turn allows them to be reused again.
Kevin is an engineer while Laurie is a family physician, and during their conversation, they both took their individual skills and knowledge and created a system that would allow these masks to be decontaminated. This is done by using concentrated hydrogen peroxide vapor inside of a chamber, where the masks are decontaminated after about 2.5 hours.
By running this system 24/7, it was capable of processing as many as 80,000 N95 masks per day. In fact, this process can be repeated with the same mask where they estimated that it can be decontaminated about 20 times without it degrading. To that end, the Pentagon has since announced that they will be awarding a $415 million contract to Battelle, the company that Kevin works for, to create the systems.
This isn’t the first time we’re hearing about the possibility of reusing masks. Previously, Taiwan’s FDA published a video which showed how those at home can reuse their masks by sanitizing them using a rice cooker.