The Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) and Molecular Plasma Group (MPG) have announced that they are teaming up to find a plasma-based method to decontaminate used masks and personal protective equipment in order to reuse them; the project also aims to create masks with antimicrobial/anti-viral coatings.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, many European countries are suffering from a critical lack of personal protective equipment, such as masks and lab coats. In order to address this challenge, several initiatives are being carried out across Europe to identify solutions to reuse the equipment available through decontamination or even sterilisation processes. So far, technologies such as chemical sterilisation, irradiation, UV exposure, supercritical CO2 or vacuum plasma have been tested and have been proven efficient against COVID-19 contamination. However, they all have major limitations. In particular, they often lead to material degradation due to very aggressive treatments.

The Luxembourgish company MPG markets a unique atmospheric pressure plasma technology, which allows the chemical characteristics of any surface to be permanently modified. This proprietary technology could be a much gentler alternative to the technologies usually used to decontaminate protective masks. The objective of the project, conducted jointly by LIST and MPG, is to demonstrate the relevance of MPG's technology for decontaminating used FFP masks to make them reusable and producing FFP masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) with increased lifespan and performance by grafting antiviral additives.

LIST’s Environmental Research and Innovation department will put its extensive experience in validating antimicrobial treatments at the service of the project. To this end, model viruses that are not pathogenic to humans but representative of viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 will be used. The effectiveness of treatments using MPG’s plasma technology will be determined by following the strict experimental frameworks defined by the European standards for the validation of decontamination treatments.