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N95 face masks might soon be rechargeable reducing waste

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Due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, N95 masks have become one of the most sought after commodities in the world. This holds especially true for many essential workers. However, this led to the problem of a huge amount of N95 masks also being disposed of, leading to waste, but that might soon change with a more effective rechargeable version.

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Rechargeable N95 face mask prototype

According to a TechCrunch report, the new rechargeable N95 face masks have been proposed by researchers at Technion-IIT in Israel and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in India. N95 masks use both mechanical filtering and electrostatic filtering, through which particles are caught in the microscopic fibers and are attracted to static charged surfaces on the scale of microns.

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However, while this method has been proved to be very effective, it does not last. As with any charge, the electrostatic charge over time as more air and moisture passes over it. So while the mask can be cleaned, its effectiveness is lost as time passes. Thus, in a paper published in the Physics of Fluids journal, Dov Levine from Technion and Shankar Ghosh from Tata, showcases a method to possibly recharged said static charges to increase the masks’ life and effectiveness.

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According to the researchers, “We find that the total charge deposited on the masks depends strongly on the charging time… with the pristine value almost reattained after a 60 min charge at 1000 V.” In other words, the filter was just required to be placed between two plate electrodes with the application of a strong electric field. While regular essential workers cannot be expected to dismantle and charge their masks over and over again a dedicated team could be established, or better yet, a mask with a rechargeable battery can be made.

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