Metal Infused Facemasks & Infectious Disease
As the international scientific community continues to work tirelessly in the global fight against COVID19, we take a look at the innovation in Facemask technologies making their way to market, that leverage key properties of pure metals and their alloys in response to the crisis.
Copper & Copper Alloys
Copper and its alloys, such as brass, bronze and copper-nickel, are inherently antimicrobial and have long been utilised within medical and health care settings. Thus it’s unsurprising that we’ve seen the concept of copper infused masks taking centre stage in the face covering conversation amongst the scientific community.
As recently published by the Advisory Board in their article exploring the evidence for the protection offered by copper against the new coronavirus, Karrera Djoko, a biochemist and microbiologist at Durham University explains how copper kills germs.
"When copper comes into contact with a germ, it has the ability to release reactive ions that puncture the exterior of the germ. The ions can then access the inside of the germ, affecting its genetic material."
Susan Karlin explains in a recent article that positively charged copper ions attract and trap bacteria and most viruses, which are negatively charged. The copper ions then penetrate the microbes and destroy their ability to replicate, significantly reducing the number of infectious particles that might get through the pores of the mask. Silver and zinc ions, also used in some masks, deactivate microbes in a similar fashion and we are seeing a number of firms worldwide who are innovating in this space, including;
Kuhn Copper Solutions, founded by microbiologist Phyllis Kuhn - an early advocate of copper use in hospitals - specialize in copper mesh masks and inserts that can be combined with traditional or cloth versions.
A recent study from the Centre for Biological Science at the University of Southampton showed a head to head comparison of copper and stainless steel and how long viruses can last on those surfaces. In about 10 minutes, the copper surface showed almost no signs of any viruses left on its surface.
Although not technically a metal, Graphene is also known for its antibacterial properties, and scientists from City University Hongkong have been researching the feasibility of graphene infused masks. Preliminary studies on the anti-bacterial graphene masks are already underway.
Photo Source: https://www.cityu.edu.hk/
“Our laser-induced graphene [LIG] material can kill almost all the E. coli and aerosolized bacteria. The bacteria-killing activity is induced by the graphene–bacteria interactions. Under the photothermal effect of the sun, it was possible to kill bacteria with an efficiency of 99.998% within 10 minutes"
Read the full story here
Silver also has well known antimicrobial properties.
It’s described as being biologically active when it’s charged and in an ionic state. Research has found that silver ions can enter into the cell of bacteria and disrupt the bacteria’s pathways. It can also disrupt DNA and its replication cycle, keeping bacteria from spreading.
We have seen several innovative companies leading the way with silver infused face coverings, including UK based Just Silver Apparel (Formally TDS Healthcare Ltd), who have developed a Deluxe 10% Silver Face Mask , specifically designed to help limit the spread of infectious diseases. The silver fibre contained in the mask helps with skin ailments and helps to prevent scarring or marks due to continued use. On the inside of the mask is 10% pure silver fibre which has proven performance with antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.
The Textile Fiber has a layer of pure natural silver permanently bonded to the outside surface. The process is such that the fiber, with its silver layer still retains traditional textile and tactile characteristics but has all of the benefits known to be inherent in pure silver. The silver thread in this face mask is permanent and not just a surface treatment, it’s irreversibly bound to a polymer so becomes a physical part of the product.
And lastly, a story from India, where a local businessman is said to have paid about $4,000 for a bespoke gold face mask to protect him from the coronavirus raging in the country.
The precious metal covering weighs 60 grams and took craftsmen eight days to make, said businessman Shankar Kurhade, from the western city of Pune. Read the full story here.
The World Health Organisation recently shared new guidance regarding mask wearing based on a review of evolving evidence, and the advice is now that masks should be worn as part of a comprehensive strategy.
Experts agree that face masks do not replace or relieve the need to wash your hands and social distance, and they absolutely do not alone prevent the spread of COVID-19.