It’s kind of bullshit that the top-notch mask on the market is a one-time use thing like the rest. N95 respirators work not just by effectively covering the nose and mouth with a physical barrier, but by filtering out the tiny airborne particles that may be carrying viruses before they can even be inhaled. This “filtering” action is conducted with an electrostatic charge — the same kind that zaps you when you’ve been running around on a carpet with your socks on. Over the course of a day, that electrostatic charge simply wears off.
But it’s called a charge for a reason, right? Couldn’t those masks simply be… recharged?
As researchers from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in India and Technion-IIT in Israel discovered last week, an N95 mask can indeed be recharged using electromagnetic plates with a charge of 800 volts per millimeter. When placed between these two plates for about an hour, an N95 mask revived to around 95 percent effectiveness. So, yes, an N95 face mask can be recharged. This is great news for the health-care industry, where N95 masks are absolutely crucial and in short supply. But it doesn’t really mean a damn thing for the general public — not only do you probably not have electromagnetic plates laying around, you probably shouldn’t even be using N95 masks in the first place. For now, anyway.
All the medical authorities have continuously urged us regular folk to utilize cloth face masks, as opposed to masks like the N95, which are needed by hospital workers and people in direct contact with the virus. There is still a shortage of N95 masks, and as cases are expected to rise in the winter, that shortage may only continue to be a problem.
Where did you even get an N95 mask, anyway? They’re still sold out everywhere!
This whole recharging development is still good news, though. Assuming hospitals already have or can get ahold of electromagnetic plates, they can at least get one extra use out of the masks they have. Moreover, this discovery points to the possibility for future innovations, like a battery-operated rechargeable mask. The authors of the aforementioned study have already developed a prototype and are currently applying for patents.
More research is needed on the long-term efficacy of a rechargeable mask, both of the electromagnetic and battery variety. But, still, it’s good news, and we’re gonna take that where we can get it. Maybe by the time these masks hit the market, we’ll all be vaccinated and healthy and free to live a mask-free life. Surely that’s overly optimistic but, again, we’re gonna take the good where we can.