The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic shortage of critical medical equipment, including N95 masks. In order to conserve resources and maintain some level of protection against COVID-19, medical personnel have begun reusing masks. While ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI), a widely used sterilization technique in medical settings, has been shown to be effective at disinfecting mask filters, it is not recommended by mask manufacturers due to deterioration of elastomeric components such as the nose foam and head straps that prevents an effective fit following sterilization. UVGI utilizes radiation in the UVC (200-280 nm) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum due to its strong absorption by microbial nucleic acids, which leads to their degradation. However, currently used elastomeric materials are similarly compromised at these UVC wavelengths. Therefore, it is of high urgency to develop elastomeric materials that are resistant to UVGI irradiation to enable decontamination and reuse of N95 masks. It would be of even greater interest if the same UV-resistant elastomeric materials also possessed intrinsic antimicrobial properties to further minimize the spread of COVID-19. Hydrated graphene oxide (hGO) is known to possess both of these desirable attributes concurrently – namely, strong optical absorption at UVC wavelengths and proven antimicrobial properties. The research proposed here thus aims to rapidly develop elastomeric composites based on hGO in order to enable the sterilization and reuse of N95 masks. Importantly, the outcomes of this research will not only address the current COVID-19 crisis, but will also be applicable for general medical use including future pandemics.
|Effective start/end date||7/1/20 → 6/30/22|
- National Science Foundation (DMR-2029058)
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