Illinois ECE graduate student develops sustainable disinfection system for N-95 masks in Haiti

5/26/2020 Joseph Park, Illinois ECE

Illinois ECE graduate student Brian Li developed an effective and sustainable disinfection system for reusing N95 masks in Haiti as part of his ECE 443 final research project. 

Written by Joseph Park, Illinois ECE

Brian D Li
Brian D Li

As part of ECE 443's (LEDs and Solar Cells) final research project, Illinois ECE graduate student Brian D Li proposed an effective and sustainable system for disinfecting and reusing N95 masks in Haiti. Entitled "A Sustainable, UV-LED Disinfection System for N95 masks in Haiti," Li's research project won the Crosslight Best Technological Solution Award (addressing the COVID-19 pandemic).

In his work, Li proposed a UV disinfection system based on AlGaN LEDs and Si solar cells to disinfect N95 masks in Port-au-Prince, Haiti for re-use. Haiti's medical system is especially vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19.

Using a Si-based photovoltaics system to sustainably power this disinfection system, Li's system uses light in the so-called "deep UV" (or UV-C) spectrum which has been known to effectively disinfect both bacteria and viruses in a variety of environments, to disinfect N95 masks for reuse. Allowing for N95 masks to be reused could help protect the already limited medical staff from the virus and reduce their fears of contracting the virus. 

Li found that for a requirement of 40 masks per day to supply 40 medical personnel, serving a population of about 100,000 people, a single Si solar panel and battery were greatly over-sized to fulfill the power needs for mask disinfection. In addition, a 0.19 m2 LED array was sufficient to disinfect all 40 masks on both sides in a combined span of about 9 hours, well within the daily requirements. The over-sizing of the system was an unexpected if welcomed result, and suggests that the availability of medical personnel and medical supplies could be a greater bottleneck to usage rather than disinfection capabilities.

Li anticipates that this system could be easily applied to other potentially affected areas. 

Read more from Li's project here.

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This story was published May 26, 2020.