Though surgical masks may prevent people from inhaling pathogens, they are not adequate tools to prevent infection from viruses. In fact, masks are almost useless when it comes to impeding highly contagious germs, such as influenza.
Therefore, Hyo-Jick Choi, a professor at the University of Alberta, Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering came up with a practical solution to make surgical masks more efficient. He used salt to improve the efficiency of masks in preventing diseases.
Surgical masks filter airborne pathogens. Small droplets that are expelled during a cough or sneeze are trapped in the mask, but the viruses or bacteria that have been trapped still live. It may may even become more concentrated in the mask's filters. Meaning, dispersion of these pathogens will probably happen when people wearing the masks touch the viruses.
Professor Choi's team at the University of Alberta, experimented with salt and modified the masks using this simple component. Experts thought crystallization inside a mask may kill the virus trapped in the filter; and they were right.
They incorporated salt in the masks, and when a virus-containing droplets entered the filters, the virus were absorbed onto the salt, forming a tiny solution containing the virus plus whatever amount of salt dissolved in the water from the droplet.
When the water evaporated whatever amount of salt that had been dissolved in it, it began to crystallize, and killed the viruses.
Due to this genius idea, Choi has been awarded a provisional patent (1). It seems, the most clever ideas are sometimes the simplest.
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