Dr. Siamak Elyasi with his prototype.
April 27, 2020 – Thunder Bay, Ont.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a Lakehead University professor is working on a unique way to sterilize N95 masks using UV lights.
This device could help in areas where they have run out of masks, said Dr. Siamak Elyasi, Associate Professor in Chemical Engineering, adding that it would be better to use new masks if they are available.
“In hospitals they use UV radiation to disinfect the surface of everything in the surgery room,” Dr. Elyasi said. “It’s a normal practice. UV radiation is also used to disinfect water and wastewater. UV can inactivate microorganisms including viruses. UV was used for SARS and flu.”
Dr. Elyasi believes his UV device could disinfect any type of mask in around 20 minutes. He is in the process of seeking research collaborators who can test it to determine the correct dosage to kill COVID-19.
He is building it using a 3D printer and readily available materials and supplies.
“Right now, it’s a simple prototype used to disinfect the surface of the mask inside and out for two masks at a time,” he said, adding that he hopes to create a larger one that can clean five to 10 masks at the same time.
The device will include a timer for the UV lights, meaning the user will not be exposed to the bulbs.
He received a $10,000 internal research grant from Lakehead University to help fund the cost of building the prototype.
“I saw in some cases that health care personnel have had to use the same masks for one week,” he said. “Instead of wearing a mask for that long, every six hours they could put their masks in this device for disinfection.
“It’s much safer than not doing anything. It’s just for emergency cases, not for replacing new masks if they are available.”
One area where Dr. Elyasi believes this prototype could be a real benefit is in nursing homes.
“If they have problems with masks or don’t have enough, they could easily use this equipment,” he said.
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Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has 10 faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. In 2019, Maclean’s 2020 University Rankings, once again, included Lakehead University among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities, while Research Infosource named Lakehead 'Research University of the Year' in its category for the fifth consecutive year. Visit www.lakeheadu.ca.