Taipei, Feb. 27 (CNA) National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (Taiwan Tech) on Thursday displayed a machine it has developed to disinfect used surgical masks, at a time when demand far outstrips supply due to the new coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic.
Professor Joseph Kuo Yu-lin (郭俞麟), who led the project in the school's Department of Mechanical Engineering, said the atmospheric pressure plasma mask disinfection machine is capable of killing bacteria and eliminating odors in 20 seconds, allowing for re-use of disposable masks.
Plasma has long been used to disinfect fragile items such as eggs and medical devices, generating an electric charge that kills or cripples bacteria, Kuo said at the unveiling of the machine at a news conference.
"With the plasma disinfection technology, robotic arms and automated functions, the mask cleaning machine is more efficient than ultraviolet rays and alcohol in eliminating odors without damaging the fabric of the masks," Kuo said.
With the help of local companies such as Sun Shine, Far Rich and Intermate, Taiwan Tech is poised to produce the device at a cost of around NT$1 million (US$33,000) per unit, to help contain the spread of the coronavirus by extending the life of surgical masks, Kuo said.
Over the past few weeks, the Taiwan government has been implementing regulations to deal with the shortage of surgical masks amid a global escalation of the COVID-19. All surgical masks produced in the country are requisitioned by the government and rationed to the public, while priority is being given to supplying hospitals and other healthcare institutions.
The COVID-19 was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December and has since spread to more than 40 countries across the globe. As of Thursday, Taiwan had reported 32 cases and one death.