Mexico City – Researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) have created a face mask using silver and copper nanolayers that neutralizes SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the August 26 edition of the university’s official gazette.
UNAM is calling the triple-layered antimicrobial face mask SakCu; Sak means silver in Mayan and Cu is the chemical symbol for copper.
The SakCu mask is made of three layers. The outer and inner layers are made of cotton and the middle one is made up of silver-copper nanolayers deposited in polypropylene.
These metals were used for their proven antiviral, antibacterial, and even antifungal properties.
To test the mask, researchers took drops with the virus from COVID-19-positive patients at the Hospital Juarez in Mexico and placed them on the silver-copper film deposited in polypropylene.
UNAM said that if the viral concentration was high, the virus disappeared by more than 80% in about eight hours and if the viral load was low, in two hours none of the virus RNA was detected.
“Upon contact with the silver-copper nanolayer, the SARS-CoV-2 membrane breaks and its RNA is damaged,” the gazette said. “Thus, even if SakCu is disposed of improperly, it will not be a problem as it does not remain contaminated, like many of the masks that are thrown away.”
The face mask is reusable and can be washed up to 10 times without losing its biocide properties.
UNAM is not mass-producing the face mask, though said that it currently has the capacity to produce 200 of them per day.
The research was led by UNAM’s Materials Research Institute. It has not been peer reviewed, meaning that it has not yet been verified by anyone other than the Mexican researchers.