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US researchers develop heated air filter that can trap and kill novel coronavirus

The virus-killing air filter is built with commercially available nickel foam, which is heated at 392 degrees Fahrenheit.

July 11, 2020 / 08:29 PM IST

Researchers at the University of Houston have developed an air filter that can trap and kill the novel coronavirus instantly.

The air filter, made of nickel foam, was designed by the Director of Texas Center of Superconductivity Dr Zhifeng Ren in collaboration with Medistar CEO Monzer Hourani. It is built with commercially available nickel foam, which is heated at 392 degrees Fahrenheit.

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The original concept was the brainchild of Hourani, who heads medical real estate development company Medistar. Medistar had approached the Texas Center for Superconductivity to help develop the virus-trapping air filter on March 31, at a time the pandemic had already started spreading rapidly across countries.

Later, tests were conducted at the Galveston National Laboratory, to find out the efficacy of the heated air filter. Researchers found that 99.8 percent COVID-19 causing novel coronavirus were killed instantly as it passed through the filter, reported the Houston Chronicle.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Commenting on the discovery, Ren said: “This filter could be useful in airports and in airplanes, in office buildings, schools and cruise ships to stop the spread of COVID-19. Its ability to help control the spread of the virus could be useful for society.”

Medistar has plans to develop a desktop model that will be able to purify the air in an office goers’ immediate surroundings.

Dr Garrett Peel of Medistar has suggested a phased roll-out of the heated air filter, handing it out to schools, hospitals, health care facilities, airplanes, and other public transport systems. They plan to deploy the “high-performance COVID-19 killer” in the next 60 days.

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first published: Jul 11, 2020 08:29 pm