ASU Student Lab Creates 2 Cheap, Portable Personal Protective Equipment Cleaners

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Monday, July 20, 2020 - 5:05am

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ASU Luminosity Lab
Rendering of the ozone sterilization system.

Shortages created by the COVID-19 pandemic have forced people to reuse personal protective equipment. Now, Arizona State University's Luminosity Lab has developed two systems that help make cleaning PPE portable and affordable.

During a crisis, bottlenecks created by the special machines and materials needed for PPE like N95 masks can cause shortages and force people to reuse what ought to be disposable items.

Large hospitals have costly equipment for sanitizing personal protective equipment, but smaller operations like schools and small businesses don't.

To fill this gap, the student-run lab decided to make sterilization devices that were as cheap and scalable as possible.

"It's cheap enough that anyone could make it using, you know, off-the-shelf Home Depot components, essentially," said lab executive director Mark Naufel.

One $60 system uses ozone and can sterilize a variety of items, including clothing and reusable face masks. In a pinch, it can run off a car battery. The other, which uses vaporized hydrogen peroxide, costs around $300 and is the preferred system for sanitizing N95 masks.

ASU Luminosity Lab
Rendering of the vaporized hydrogen peroxide system.

The lab has worked with other ASU departments, such as the Biodesign Institute, to test the masks and ensure they still perform to specifications after cleaning.

They group also has filed to patent the devices, but Naufel says that is merely to stop other parties from commercializing them.  

"We just don't want anyone doing that and blocking people's ability to make them on their own," he said.

The lab has published instructions for building and using the ozone system and the vaporized hydrogen peroxide system on the preprint server MedRxiv. 

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