“When moisture is introduced to the fabric, the silver and zinc become tiny batteries (Silver/zinc batteries are used in everyday consumer devices) that produce a small electrical current. In the case of dressings, natural oozing from the wound known as ‘serous fluid’ activates the batteries and promotes healing by killing bacteria. “
The Silver Institute
Small amounts of electricity have been shown to kill many germs, so one company is building tiny silver/zinc batteries into face masks to keep the wearer safe from infection. Vomaris Innovations, Inc., Tempe, Arizona, currently produces a polyester fabric wound dressing imbedded with tiny silver and zinc spots that resemble polka dots. The particles are 2 millimeters wide and spaced about 1 millimeter apart.
When moisture is introduced to the fabric, the silver and zinc become tiny batteries (Silver/zinc batteries are used in everyday consumer devices) that produce a small electrical current. In the case of dressings, natural oozing from the wound known as ‘serous fluid’ activates the batteries and promotes healing by killing bacteria. For a face mask, the activating moisture would come from exhalation. The company is currently testing face masks using their fabric to see which microbes, including those that cause COVID-19, might be killed on contact with the material.
Chandan Sen, now the director of the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering at the Indiana University School of Medicine, conducted a study in 2017 showing the fabric could be used as an antimicrobial wound dressing. And now he is applying the technology to combat COVID-19, with encouraging early results.
Sen detailed the potential application to COVID-19 on May 14 in a preliminary study released online at the preprint server ChemRxiv. The site publishes early versions of studies ahead of formal peer review and publication.
When the coronavirus pandemic began, Sen thought about ways his research could help, he said in a YouTube video released through Indiana University.
“We tried to put some time into understanding the physical make of this virus, and are there perhaps some weak points we could target,” Sen said.
Coronaviruses in general rely on electrostatic interactions to assemble themselves into an infective form and attach to a host.
The electroceutical fabric consists of polyester with a series of metal dots – alternating silver and zinc – printed on the surface in a geometric pattern. These metals, when exposed to moisture, create microcell batteries that generate an electrical charge. There is no wire or external battery.