The United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) recently registered a patent for an electrical mask that will get rid of viruses. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic situation and viral outbreaks have highlighted the importance of protective gear including facemasks and other forms of apparel to enhance safety against infection. Taking note of the various global, social and economic problems caused by viral outbreaks, the UAE authorities ensured the procurement and provision of safety gear for all frontline workers.
Different studies have demonstrated different frequencies of COVID-19 infection among humans. Some studies have underlined concerns related to the possible accumulation of viruses on masks and protective equipment which can later transfer onto the user’s hands or clothing. It can further result in COVID-19 infection.
Relevant authorities have confirmed the effectiveness of protective apparel against the virus and any improvements to this effect can help in enhancing the fight against infection.
Addressing this challenge, a multidisciplinary team of researchers at UAE University, led by Dr Mahmoud Al Ahmad, have developed and patented a device that can be attached to any protective apparel such as face masks to counter viruses. The device has two flexible graphene electrodes which are connected to a power source like a battery which supplies a low rating direct current of 1 µA to 100mA and a voltage of 3 volts to power the device. The usage of fractal and interdigitated electrodes in the device allows equal spaces to exist between the different electrode "fingers". There is enough space to allow adequate airflow to facilitate breathing for the user. The device is supported by a material made of flexible plastics or polymer material like polycarbonate or Polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG) sheets. This material conforms to the shape of the user's face when the mask is placed. when the facemask is secured.
When is device is switched on, one electrode is charged positively and the other electrode is charged negatively to generate an electric field (~20MV/m) and facilitate the flow of current through any viruses present in the space. The device has the potential to either fully destroy the virus or partially destroy them or make them incapacitated and rendered harmless. The user can adjust the device settings such as application duration and rating to allow an effective fight against different kinds of viruses.
Second application of the device relates to its benefits for vaccine development. The device applies alternating current superimposed with direct bias to counter the infectivity of the virus and destroy its communicability. Therefore, it can help in creating a vaccine against viruses of the same type.
In this regard, Prof Ahmed Ali Murad, Associate Provost for Research at UAE University, hailed the University for supporting and encouraging innovation in various fields. Through the Patents and Intellectual Property Unit at the Office, the University supports the ideas of researchers and faculty members and ensure their preservation by registering the researchers and university rights through the electronic system. It helps researchers in submitting their ideas for review and then get legal recognition after getting it reviewed through legal firms. Later, the idea is granted a patent within a period of 7 months.
He further underlined that the patent has come as part of the efforts of the University to find the best solutions to challenges based by the global health system, especially in terms of virus transmission and protection of public health.
"Health is considered one of the research strategic priorities of the university. We are proud and happy to contribute to strengthening the national efforts to protect the health of the community and we are looking forward to starting marketing this patent as the next step," he added.
Mahmoud Al Ahmad, an associate professor of engineering at the University of United Arab Emirates, noted that the research is of great significance for the international scientific community and it will open new areas to develop smart solutions to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.
"While the concept will require more development before being applied to PPE, it is an excellent start in this direction," he added.