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NASA partners with University Hospitals to test PPE sanitization

The team has developed two methods to safely disinfect and reuse N95 masks

CLEVELAND — NASA's Glenn Research Center and University Hospitals have teamed up to develop methods for disinfecting personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic. 

So far the team has developed two methods they believe will help healthcare workers sanitize N95 masks on site and safely reuse them.

“NASA strives to ensure the technology we develop for space exploration and aeronautics is broadly available to benefit the public and the nation,” Glenn Center Director Marla Pérez-Davis, Ph.D, said in a press release. “If our technology can lend a hand in overcoming this crisis, we will do whatever we can to put it in the hands of those who need it.”

The first process uses whats called atomic oxygen. According to researchers, these single oxygen atoms can help remove organic material from surfaces that are difficult to remove otherwise. 

“As the ozone decomposes into atomic oxygen, it can kill organisms like viruses,” Glenn research engineer Sharon Miller added.

This method is still being tested; the big test is whether this process can be used multiple times without damaging the masks. 

The other process uses peracetic acid, a chemical disinfectant used in the health care, food, and water treatment industries, according to UH. Results using this device have been "exciting," according to one of the doctors on the team. 

"We believe that the peracetic acid disinfection method is the fastest method of mass-decontamination of N95 respirators currently available,” UH's Dr. Shine Raju said in a press release. According to UH, the Food and Drug Administration is reviewing this method for an emergency use authorization.

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