Peter Tsai, N95 mask filter inventor speaks about mask sterilization

Peter Tsai, the Taiwanese American scientist who invented the N95 mask filter
EJ
Emeh Joy

The man who created the N95 mask filter, Peter Tsai had been retired for over two years before the pandemic struck. He didn't hesitate when he was called back to work to help healthcare workers.

Peter Tsai is a Taiwanese American scientist. He invented the synthetic fabric used to make N95 respirators, which is currently regarded as the most effective barriers to the spread of the coronavirus.

When the coronavirus took hold of the United States in March, Tsai had to resume work even though he had already retired about two years ago.

Speaking with the CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr Sanjay Gupta about work resumption Tsai said, "I felt I need...I need to help health workers. You know they put their lives at risk. What I know can help them".

Tsai patented the technology used to make the masks in 1995 and here's how it works:

The N95 mask blocks as much as 95% of the particles that come in contact with the mask. Tsai invented the filters using the corona electrostatic charging method.

The N95 mask

Simply put, the mask's filter has both negative and positive charges. It attracts neutral particles like bacteria from viruses, polarized the particles and then traps them before they can pass through the mask.

Tsai got back to work when he found out that healthcare workers were reusing the masks as a way of dealing with supply shortages; he went back to work.

He worked up to 20 hours a day at the University of Tennessee Knoxville's Research Foundation, testing out new ways of sterilizing the masks.

He said he tried out different methods which included putting he masks out in the sun, putting them in the oven, washing with soap and steaming.

He later discovered what seemed like the best method, which was to keep the masks in 160-degree heat for 30 minutes, which can be achieved by hanging them in the oven.

He, however, told Gupta that his preferred method is buying seven N95 masks and rotating them, using one each day.

After using one mask, he hangs it separately and doesn't use again for seven days to enable the inactivation of any bacteria that it must have trapped.

Tsai also told Gupta that people should be encouraged to wear masks in public, even if they are not N95 respirators.

"Some people said, 'I don't care. I do not need to wear a mask,' that is very selfish because you expose your germs to other people. So any mask is good", he said.

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