Al Ain : The United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) has registered a patent for an electrical mask to kill viruses, as we have seen with the recent COVID-19 epidemic, viral outbreaks or pandemics can result in numerous global, social, and economic problems. This outbreak has highlighted the need for protective apparel such as facemasks and other protective gear which can offer the public protection from exposure. Although some studies show that anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand COVID-19 viruses are required for a person to contact COVID-19, other studies have shown that even as few as 10 viral particles can result in viral infection. It is also possible that accumulated viruses on masks and protective equipment can later be transferred onto the user’s hands or clothing and result in infection. This makes it clear that the effectiveness of protective apparel is of extreme importance and any improvements to this effectiveness may even mean the difference between life and death.
A multidisciplinary team of researchers at UAE University, led by Dr Mahmoud Al Ahmad are addressing this challenge. They have developed and patented a device that has two flexible graphene electrodes connected to a power source such as a battery (supplies a low rating direct current of 1 µA to 100mA and a voltage 3 volts) to power the device. The two electrodes are fractal and interdigitated such that equal spaces exist between the different electrode “fingers”. This fractal and interdigitated nature increase the surface area and provides for more area in the spaces for the viruses to make contact. The device can be attached to any protective apparel, for example face masks. The spaces are sufficiently large enough to permit adequate airflow to allow the user to breath. The backing material is made of suitable flexible plastics or polymer material, such as, for example, polycarbonate or Polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG) sheets which can conform to the shape of the users face when the facemask is secured.
When the device is powered, one electrode is charged positively, and the other electrode is charged negatively generating an electric field (~20MV/m) and causing a current to flow through or across any viruses located in or near the spaces. The viruses are therefore either fully destroyed, or partially destroyed or at least incapacitated and rendered harmless. The device settings such as current rating and application period can be adjusted to be effective for different kinds of viruses. The device can also be attached to any kind of protective apparel.
A second application of the device is its functionality for vaccine development. By applying an alternating current superimposed with direct bias, the viruses’ infectivity is affected, and physiology and communicability destroyed. It can then be used to create a vaccine against viruses of the same type.
Prof Ahmed Ali Murad, Associate Provost for Research at UAE University said the University supports and encourages innovation in many fields. The University through the Patents and Intellectual Property Unit at the Office, supports researchers and faculty members ideas and contribute to preserve the ideas and register the researchers and university rights through the electronic system which allow the researcher to submit the idea and then review it scientifically and legally through legal firm that allow the idea to be granted a patent within a period of 7 months.
Associate Provost for Research added that this patent comes as part of the University’s efforts to find the best solutions to the global health challenges especially those related to the viruses spread and public health protection as the Health is considered one of the research strategic priorities of the university. He added also that we are proud and happy to contribute to strengthen the national’s efforts to protect the health of the community and we are looking forward to starting marketing this patent as next step.
“The work is of interest for the scientific community; it will open new areas to search to provide smart solutions to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Mahmoud Al Ahmad, an associate professor of engineering at the University of United Arab Emirates. While the concept will require more development before being applied to PPE, he says, “it is an excellent start in this direction.
© Press Release 2021