A new air filter containing commercially available nickel foam has been created by the Researchers from the University of Houston, in collaboration with others, to “catch and kill” the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) responsible for COVID-19. The prototype filter has been so effective that it trapped and killed the virus instantly.
In a research paper published in the Materials Today Physics, the researchers including Zhifeng Ren, director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH, Monzer Hourani, CEO, Medistar, a Houston-based medical real estate development firm, and other researchers described how the virus tests at the Galveston National Laboratory found 99.8% of the novel SARS-CoV-2, was killed in a single pass through a filter made from commercially available nickel foam heated to 200 degrees Centigrade, or about 392 degrees Fahrenheit. It also killed 99.9% of the anthrax spores in testing at the national lab, which is run by the University of Texas Medical Branch. In order to stop the spread of COVID-19, a deadly disease that till date has made more than one crore 22 lakh people ill and killed more than 5 lakh 54 thousand people word over, this filter could prove to be a boon.
Since the virus can remain in the air for about three hours and cannot survive 70 degrees Centigrade, the researchers devised a plan to create a heated filter to quickly remove the virus from the air.
Luo Yu of the UH Department of Physics and TcSUH along with Dr. Garrett K. Peel of Medistar and Dr. Faisal Cheema at the UH College of Medicine are co-first authors on the paper.
“This filter could be useful in airports and in airplanes, in office buildings, schools and cruise ships to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Ren, MD Anderson Chair Professor of Physics at UH and co-corresponding author for the paper.
“Its ability to help control the spread of the virus could be very useful for society.” Medistar executives are also proposing a desk-top model, capable of purifying the air in an office worker’s immediate surroundings, he said.
Since the virus can remain in the air for about three hours and cannot survive 70 degrees Centigrade, the researchers devised a plan to create a heated filter to quickly remove the virus from the air. With businesses reopening, controlling the spread in air conditioned spaces was urgent.By making the filter temperature far hotter – about 200 C – they were able to kill the virus almost instantly. Using nickel foam has its own advantage,i.e., It is porous, allowing the flow of air, and electrically conductive, which allowed it to be heated. It is also flexible. By folding the foam and creating multiple compartments connected with electrical wires, the researchers were able to solve the problem of low resistivity of nickel foam and raise the temperature as high as 250 degrees C. By making the filter electrically heated, rather than heating it from an external source, the researchers said they minimized the amount of heat that escaped from the filter, allowing air conditioning to function with minimal strain.
A prototype was built by a local workshop and first tested at Ren’s lab for the relationship between voltage/current and temperature; it then went to the Galveston lab to be tested for its ability to kill the virus. Ren said it satisfies the requirements for conventional heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
“This novel biodefense indoor air protection technology offers the first-in-line prevention against environmentally mediated transmission of airborne SARS-CoV-2 and will be on the forefront of technologies available to combat the current pandemic and any future airborne biothreats in indoor environments," Cheema said.
Hourani and Peel have called for a phased roll-out of the device, “beginning with high-priority venues, where essential workers are at elevated risk of exposure (particularly schools, hospitals and health care facilities, as well as public transit environs such as airplanes).”
That will both improve safety for frontline workers in essential industries and allow nonessential workers to return to public work spaces, they said.
Reference- University of Houston
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