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Siberians increase medical masks’ service life

5 Apr '20
To extend the service life of medical fabric masks—an improvement that would help flatten the coronavirus incidence curve in these tough pandemic times—scientists at the Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) in Siberia are suggesting that masks be treated with a special silver nanoparticles based solution.

The silver nanoparticles based solution called Argovit comes from a collaborative effort between TPU researchers, the Vektor-Vita research and production center in the neighboring Russian city of Novosibirsk, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

This is a 20% solution of several silver nanoparticles complexes stabilized with polymer molecules. The Polytechnic team believes the Argovit can help substantially lengthen the usability of medical (surgical) masks and respirators. The scientists say masks’ filtering layer should be soaked with the Argovit solution in a therapeutic 1-2% concentration.

“That would make it possible for masks or respirators to keep their protective properties for days, thus stepping up overall antiviral protection,” the team said.

The solution has already been registered for use in the food industry as a biologically active additive, and also for use in the manufacture of hygienic items and cosmetics. For example, in Novosibirsk they use the invention to make cosmetics with antimicrobial properties, and in Omsk, another Siberian city, the solution provides the base for next gen oral care products. In addition, Argovit-based medicinal solutions have been certified for veterinary applications in the treatment of viral and microbial diseases in cattle, pets, and wild animals.

“It has been proved in more than two decades of research at dozens of medical and vet organizations in Russia and Mexico that silver nanoparticles show a wide range of antiviral activities and are non-selective to a specific type of virus only. Our specific silver nanoparticles demonstrate extremely low toxicity, cost just a fraction of the cost of conventional antibiotics, and have a two-year shelf life,” said Prof. Alexei Pestryakov of TPU’s Research School for Chemical and Biomedical Technologies.

As a parallel approach, the Polytechnic team is suggesting that medical masks be sterilized using TPU’s pulse electron accelerator. Unlike conventional thermal and gas treatment, the technology does not destroy the fabric of a mask, the scientists claim. The existing capacity enables the sterilization of up to a thousand masks a shift. With a larger accelerator that might take six months to create, as many as 100,000+ masks could be treated per shift.
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