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Heated air filter designed to kill COVID-19 instantly, researchers say

HOUSTON – A new way to kill the coronavirus and it may help kids for this upcoming school year. The invention: An air filter that can trap the virus, killing it instantly.

Researchers at the University of Houston teamed up with Houston-based medical real estate firm Medistar to design an air filter that could change the way we fight the coronavirus.

“You can either retrofit your existing AC system or you can have a stationary stand-alone unit, which can be used for clean air, anywhere you have air circulation,” said Zhifeng Ren, director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston.”

How coronavirus killing air filter works

The secret to success -- heat. Researchers said tests at the Galveston National Laboratory found 99.8% of the novel SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was killed in a single pass through a filter made from commercially available nickel foam heated to about 392 degrees Fahrenheit.

It also killed 99.9% of the anthrax spores in testing at the national lab, which is run by the University of Texas Medical Branch.

The researchers knew the virus can remain in the air for about three hours, meaning a filter that could remove it quickly was a viable plan. With businesses reopening, controlling the spread in air-conditioned spaces was urgent. By making the filter electrically heated, rather than heating it from an external source, the researchers said they minimized the amount of heat that escaped from the filter, allowing the air conditioning to function with minimal strain.

“We are very proud that we can make this contribution to put the kids back to school, people back to the office, workers back to the factory and get back to normal,” Ren said.

The prototype is being made now and could be ready for mass production by early August. Medistar executives are is also proposing a desk-top model, capable of purifying the air in an office worker’s immediate surroundings.