Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Socially Distanced Design

Sterilising face masks with UV-C light making them re-useable

26 May 2020

Socially Distanced Design

With the demand for life-saving N95 face masks outstripping supply, one solution is for hospitals to sterilise and reuse them. But how? In the absence of dedicated mask sterilisation devices, a team of engineers at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania decided to take matters into their own hands and design one for their local hospital, St Luke’s. Remarkably, they did so without once physically meeting each other or hospital staff. Using emails, video and phone calls, the team developed the design from their homes. They then ordered parts online to construct individual components and delivered these to prearranged drop-off sites for hospital staff to collect. Hospital machinists and engineers then assembled the components on site. The machine (pictured) which can decontaminate several thousand masks a day, is now fully operational serving St Luke’s healthcare providers, meaning they in turn can safely serve their patients.

Written by Ruth Williams

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