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Scientists from Costa Rica develop camera to disinfect COVID-19 masks

July 27, 2020

Costa Rican scientists developed a camera that uses ultraviolet light and plasma to disinfect masks used by health personnel in the fight against COVID-19, the state-run Costa Rica Institute of Technology (TEC) reported.

The device was developed by scientists from TEC and the company Plasma Innova, and was tested in local laboratories before undergoing an international test, the university said in a statement.

The chamber was devised by personnel from the Mechatronics Engineering department following a request from the Costa Rican Social Security System, which manages the country’s public hospitals and leads the fight against the pandemic.

“We are a small country, and the purchases we manage to make are insignificant compared to the rest of the world. The best thing we can do to ensure supply at this time is to disinfect the masks that we already have and reuse them,” said Marta Vílchez, a scientist from the TEC in charge of project coordination.

Costa Rican health authorities have repeatedly complained about the difficulties of obtaining imported supplies and personal protection equipment in the face of high global demand due to the coronavirus.

Irradiation with ultraviolet light is an internationally validated disinfection technology, TEC explained.

What’s new is the use of plasma-activated air, which generates ozone molecules that purify any object inside the chamber.

“Ozone is an unstable molecule and reacts very well with fats. That is, the tendency of ozone to be in contact with the (coronavirus) would be to break its envelope and kill it,” explained Vílchez.

Although the device is still awaiting international certification, it is already used in a private dental clinic in San José.

Odontologist Oscar Vargas, who uses the disinfection chamber in his clinic, highlights that it allows him to offer his patients “greater certification of sterilization and infection control, in these times of pandemic.”

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