CLEVELAND, Ohio — While working with COVID-19 patients, the N95 mask is a must to keep health care workers safe. But with such high demand, supply can easily get low.
“Given that it happened all at once, I think, scarcity is the byproduct. But if everyone needs it at the same time, how do you handle this from a logistics standpoint?” said Kipum Lee, University Hospitals Ventures Managing Director of Innovation and Design.
Lee said while brainstorming ways to decontaminate personal protective equipment, they reached out to NASA Glenn for help.
"It really started as a, ‘We've got nothing to lose.' We know they're smart, they've got lots of tried and true technologies. Might there be something within their arsenal of know how that might be beneficial for us and maybe even vice versa that we might be able to help them?”
“So what we're looking at is a way to decontaminate masks on site, so that they're available for workers that are caring for coronavirus patients to use,” said NASA Research Engineer Sharon Miller.
University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and NASA Glenn Research Center decided to pursue two different methods: Atomic oxygen and peracetic acid. Atomic oxygen is made when ozone is heated which then kills the virus,it's also a method nasa uses to clean their space ships. Peracetic acid is a chemical disinfectant that University Hospitals researchers said kills nearly 100 percent of viruses.
“We’re hoping it helps people everywhere, because that's kind of our charter — 'For the benefit of all.' So, in partnership with the University Hospitals, we're looking at ways that we can have like a small portable device that treats the PPE. ... In our case, we're looking at ozone. We have a small ozone generator that flows into a heated box with PPE that allows like a batch treatment on site,” said Miller
University Hospitals is testing the methods with hopes to get the information to other medical institutions for widespread use.
"Right now they're doing tests with a SARS virus to see how long it takes to clean before it's effective and also how many cycles of cleaning you can do without damaging the masks,” said Miller.
Lee said he hopes this innovation momentum continues beyond the pandemic.
"And so we hope that spirit of collaboration innovation persists beyond the crisis right now. And I think only good will come of that only good will come of that for our system as well as the community," said Lee.