Israeli scientists have invented a way to protect against viruses, like face masks do, but without having to cover your face, by means of an “air screen”.
They made prototypes of this small, battery-operated device, which clips onto a baseball cap and blows air downward, in front of the face, at a speed of 30 kilometers per hour.
The prototypes worked well, revealing that they could protect the wearer from viruses emitted by those around them, but also – if the wearer is infected – protect others.
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The tests were carried out using particles of different sizes that mimic the movement of virus droplets and aerosols, i.e. tiny bits of body fluid that can carry the coronavirus or other viruses. The results are now online in a peer-reviewed study published in the journal Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science.
“We tried to quantify the number of droplets that still reach the face and found that the ‘air screen’ provides high protection, comparable to that of masks, said the Times of Israel Moshe Shoham, professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and co-director of the study.
The company he founded, Wisdome Wearables, will soon begin producing the devices, which should be commercially available within months.
The experiment simulated the effects of a person sneezing or coughing one meter from the subject. Some 62% of droplets and aerosols heading towards the person wearing the device were stopped. And 99% of droplets and aerosols that traveled from the wearer to other people were blocked.
“It actually performs two functions: firstly, it filters the air, which provides better hygiene for the wearer of the ‘mask’, and secondly, the air screen blocks droplets and aerosols that carry the virus”, Shoham said.
“It’s a great solution as traditional masks are not suitable for many people, especially the elderly, and they are impractical for people in professions such as teaching and therapy, for whom to have an uncovered face is important. »
Several research teams have tested alternatives to air-based masks, but none have been commercialized to date. Dyson, the company known for its vacuum cleaners, is about to release headphones with an air filter device. Unlike Shoham’s solution, it sits on the face and is expected to cost hundreds of dollars, while Shoham’s device is expected to be moderately priced.
Shoham developed the mask with professors David Greenblatt, David Keisar and Anan Garzozi. According to David Greenblatt, this technology has long-term interest since the masks will be in demand beyond the COVID pandemic.
“What we have developed will stop the SARS CoV 2 droplets, and also help in the fight against MERS, influenza and various other viruses,” he told the Times of Israel. “We believe our device will be affordable and effective. The pandemic has shown the usefulness of face masks far beyond COVID, and by our estimates they will remain relevant post-pandemic. »