Adding to its portfolio of products aimed at bolstering the capabilities of frontline agencies tackling the COVID-19 menace in the Sultanate, Makers Oman – a new hub for Omani-driven science and technology innovations – says it is close to rolling out a special unit that utilises ultraviolet (UV) light to disinfect high-end face masks for potential reuse.
UV light, while invisible to the human eye, is effective in destroying harmful pathogens, including viruses. When exposed to UV light (at a specific range of wavelengths), the pathogens are rendered incapable of reproducing and infecting.
According to a key representative, around eight masks can be disinfected at a time in a standard unit designed by Makers Oman in collaboration with the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech). Each session ranges from 5 to 15 minutes, but can be standardised.
“The prototype we have come up with – after a great deal of research and testing – works perfectly,” said Ahmed al Zadjaly, Operations and Maintenance Lead Engineer at Makers Oman. “It offers a speedy, safe, cost-effective and environment-friendly solution for reusing face masks without compromising the properties of the mask.”
Located at Innovation Park Muscat (IPM) in Rusayl, Makers Oman has been at the forefront of Oman’s efforts to innovate personal protective equipment (PPE) and other devices to help offset supply shortfalls in the country amid a surge in global demand for these goods. The outfit is sponsored by the Public Authority for Privatisation and Partnership (PAPP).
Speaking to the Observer, Al Zadjaly said the latest initiative stems from a specific requirement voiced by first responders at a leading healthcare institution in the capital region. “They expressed a desire to optimise the use of N95 face masks, partly out of concerns that they may temporarily run out of them and partly because some of the supplies received from abroad do not fit snugly on the faces of the users. Besides, the chemical disinfection process currently used at the hospital leaves behind a strong odour that made reuse a bit difficult.”
UV disinfection in healthcare is not a novel concept, says Ahmed. “There are UV-based disinfection cabinets installed in most hospitals, but the demand has surged in the wake of the pandemic. Furthermore, existing ones are not suitable for face mask or PPE disinfection, and are generally 4 – 5 times more expensive than our prototype.”
In line with its mission, Makers Oman will mobilise its resources to mass-produce UV Disinfection Units for the nation’s requirements, said Al Zadjali. “We see ourselves to be partners alongside those on the frontlines in the fight against the pandemic. Our goal is to support the requirements of healthcare institutions and other agencies engaged in this campaign.”
Makers Oman’s recent COVID-19 related innovations have included mass-produced face shields using laser-cutting technology; Hands-free door-opener; ‘Ventilator Splitter’ – a device that helps connect one ventilator with multiple patients; a portable ventilator for use in hospitals and home settings; an indigenously designed bed for Intensive Care Units (ICU); and ‘Respiratory Helmet’ – an advanced face mask with a filter unit strapped to the healthcare worker’s back.