While a small fraction of the population was unphased by the threat of the coronavirus, many people have been scrambling. Current generations had never before met such a threat. When physicians and nurses were reusing personal protective equipment (PPE) due to a shortage during the start of the pandemic, a number of companies decided to confront the face mask scarcity with innovation.
Even as face-to-face restrictions are lifted thanks to the scientific world’s expeditious vaccinations, many people still feel uncomfortable being out in public without a mask. This discomfort will likely become more pronounced as highly contagious variants – like the Delta variant – make their way into other nations.
Governments of nations did put PPE production plans in place for if Chinese factories were to shut down again from COVID-19 infections. So, it is unlikely that doctors will again be reusing masks and wearing trash bags as gowns. Despite all the studies showing the effectiveness of both cloth and disposable masks, some people maintain doubt. They crave something more advanced – more durable – a little more Sci Fi.
THE PATH TO THE UV MASK
The UVMask was born – which has an N95 filter and an UV-C Sterile Vortex. A Kickstarter Campaign with a modest goal of raising tens of thousands of dollars has now raised over $2 million – and some scrutiny as to its likely effectiveness.
UV light has long been used in water purification in third world countries and in backpacking because the light neutralizes germs.
“It has been over 140 years since Downes & Blunt discovered the antibacterial effects of sunlight. They determined that shorter wavelengths of the solar spectrum were more effective at neutralizing bacteria. It is now known that there are germicidal effects of UV-C, UV-B, UV-A and violet blue light,” according to an article from Violet Defense.
Others give a physician named Niels Ryber Finsen the credit for UV light technology advancements.
“He actually won the Nobel Prize in 1903 for his use of light radiation to treat diseases such as Lupus. Since his discovery, hospitals have been using this technology to disinfect surgical suites and cut down on the spread of drug-resistant germs,” according to a recent blog.
FROM UV WATER BOTTLES AND BEYOND
The pandemic has been pushing innovation in all areas – particularly in the uses of UV light. What was once only widely used by the general public in the form of water bottles has since grown to include masks and new technologies for home use in the forms of light-based sanitizers.
“How could light, without any sort of cleaning solution, effectively kill germs? But after a bit of research, I learned UV light has been used by medical facilities and doctors for hundreds of years,” per the article. “The recent shortage… spurred the creativity to bring this technology to the consumer’s use.”
Hundreds of years of scientific research and real-world applications back-up the use of UV as a means to mitigate human risk to viruses and bacteria.
UM Mask Specs
Here are some additional details about UM’s mask design:
Filtration: The UM Mask has 2-step purification. Most masks only provide passive protection. UVMask is the first face protection to provide total active UV-C protection, according to the company. Breathing sends air to two 275nm pure UV-C LEDs, which each emit 25,000μW/cm² and are connected by a high pass-through PMMA chamber wall, making the total UV-C intensity 50,000μW/cm² throughout.
UV Light: The UV-C LEDs in the UM mask produce a narrow spectrum of UV-C light, as well as a nano-coating optical filter that filters out ozone-generating wavelengths. The UV-C light is sealed within the Sterile-Vortex, which avoids UV-C leakage during the filtration process. UVMask uses 275nm wavelength UV-C LEDs, which reliably generate a narrow range of UV-C. According to the company, every UVMask is factory-tested for its UV-C wavelength purity, ensuring high safety standards.
A Tight Fit: The UVMask has an airtight seal around your mouth and nose. There are no air leakages because of the mask’s silicone inner mask. The air is ventilated into the mask by a fan. Even if the mask moves when you’re speaking, the air is always pushed out and doesn’t allow any external air inside the mask.
Battery: Two high-safety standard Li-Polymer 1,800 mAh Li-Po batteries will provide as much as eight hours of continuous use with a single charge. The UVMask’s hard shell is designed for durability. Dropping the mask won’t damage it. It also won’t be damaged if you forget it in the car on a hot day. If you use a wrong charger, it will not swell the battery or compromise the UV-C housing. The mask can also be used while charging, so you can still stay safe on long days at work. Need to work a 16-hour shift? You can extend the battery life with any power bank and the included cable.
IT’S A WILD WORLD OF DOUBT OUT THERE
Still, some people doubt that the technology brought to the masses can possibly be effective. There will always be doubters in the world who shirk scientific findings. There has even been a resurgence of the Flat Earth Theory – which contradicts long standing scientific evidence that the world is – in fact – round.
So, is the science there? Is it possible that UV can keep humans safe in this next phase as society deals with waves of COVID? I think it is.
But what about the company behind the latest UV mask?
UM Systems, a subsidiary of Measure, Inc. brought about the UV Mask, which is a reusable face mask that touts both an N95 filter and proprietary technology called the UV-C Sterile Vortex. The rubber mask with the filter is also fitted with a changer that has two UV-C LEDs that the company claims can purify the air in seconds.
The UM Systems and Measure, Inc. CEO Boz Zou has experience with cloud-based manufacturing platforms as well as ties to both North America and to factories in Asia, which should facilitate the production of the masks.
PUT A LITTLE FAITH IN SCIENTIFIC/TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENT
Again, is it possible that a UV mask could work? Given the hundreds of years that UV light has been used in medical facilities for the same purpose of sterilization in the prevention of superbugs, I think it is.
It makes sense that in a world plagued by – in essence – a plague, there would be a genesis of doubt and suspicion in all sectors. Reddit has become a battleground of divisive debate on everything from the merits of scientific advancements, the current state of cryptocurrency, the stock market, and the education system.
The question begs: should we doubt everything? Or should we put our faith in something? In science? In technology? In the potential for the growth of human knowledge and advancement?
I want to believe that hundreds of years of using UV to protect patients in operating rooms can culminate into effective – and chemical-free – treatment of surfaces so they can be safe. I want to believe that we can use scientific knowledge and understanding earned by years of trial and error for the greater good. I want a UV Mask that can keep my family safe.
UM Systems has designed a state-of-the-art mask that many people will likely find useful in their daily lives, especially if they work long hours at a job with high risk of viral transmission.
While the rollout of vaccines has made many Western nations, especially the US, safer places to live and work around other people, the reality is that millions of people in countries around the world will need a reliable mask for months, if not years, to come.
These UV light masks could be very useful in countries that continue to face major viral outbreaks, with a high uncertainty of when they will receive vaccines.
The company has raised large amounts of money primarily because so many people still see a need for a safer, reusable mask. After a year and a half of the pandemic, it makes sense that the technology needed some time to develop.
UV light masks clearly have potential, and it will be interesting to see how this technology continues to evolve in the coming years.