Seattle inventor’s spray could super ‘charge’ your cloth mask against airborne coronavirus

VIDEO: Seattle company creates spray for masks

SEATTLE — An invention made by a Seattle scientist could make common cloth face masks far more effective in protecting the wearer from inhaling coronavirus particles and developing COVID-19.

The simple science behind the invention uses the same electrostatic natural forces which attract dust to a statically-charged sweeping cloth or to a TV screen. It’s the same force causing a balloon to stick to your hand after you rub in on your hair.

Greg Newbloom, who has a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Washington, has already developed methods for purifying and desalinating water through his startup company Membrion Inc. The new invention is a spray--so new it does not have a name--which gives a typical cloth mask a positive electrostatic charge.

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The coronavirus exhaled by infected people has a naturally negative electrostatic charge when it floats in the air, and Newbloom says it will be pulled toward and stick to anything with a positive charge.

N-95 and KN-95 masks are manufactured with a positive electrostatic charge in several layers of material, which works to filter out 95% of particles in the air.

The visual demonstration Newbloom uses to explain the concept uses the spray to saturate both sides of a cotton face mask. Then he sprays both sides with a blue dye carrying a negative charge--like the coronavirus.

The dye shows up starkly in the uncoated side of the mask, but on the coated side, it vanishes completely, because the electrical charge you can’t see neutralizes it by capturing and trapping its tiniest particles, like a magnet.