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Laser

Israeli researchers use nano-technology to build corona-zapping filters.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

Sometimes in Israel you have to think small in order to get big results.

And sometimes you have use nanotechnology, a discipline where things are the size of a nanometer, which is one millionth of a millimeter or 0.0000000039 inches.

With the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc around the world, one of the big fears is that you might inhale the virus.

To address this risk, researchers from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) have teamed up with colleagues at Rice University in Houston, Texas to make a new filter that zaps tiny airborne particles including those carrying COVID-19.

Dr. Chris Arnusch at the BGU Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research realized that his work in laser-induced graphene (LIG) could be commercialized to make filters that to neutralize COVID-19-carrying particles.

“For the past five years, our lab has focused on the development of LIG, specifically in antimicrobial filtration and environmental applications,” Arnusch said. “We are excited to be commercializing our technology in a number of air filtration products for COVID-19 and other specialized filtration applications.”

In lay terms, LIG is a one-molecule thick layer of carbon produced by zapping material with a super-thin laser beam. When you make sheets of LIG, you can build them into filters designed to damage and destroy organic particles. including bacteria, mold spores and, most importantly in this pandemic, viruses at the micron and sub-micron levels that pass through a microscopic network of porous graphene filters.

Arnusch worked with chemist Dr. James Tour at Rice University, and their discovery is being commercialized by an Israeli startup company LIGC.

“To understand the technology, imagine the porous graphene is an electric fence that functions like a mosquito zapper at the submicron level,” said LIGC CEO Yehuda Borenstein. “When an airborne bacteria or virus touches the graphene surface, it is shocked at a low voltage and currents that are safe for use.”

Borenstein said the pandemic shocked people into understanding the importance of filtering the air they breathe, but so much filtering would have to be done without burning too much energy.

“In the absence of better filtration technology, the indoor spaces where we used to spend most of our ‘normal’ life – schools, stores and workplaces – due to COVID-19 present a real risk. This technology will provide cleaner and more breathable air with lower energy and maintenance costs and virtually silent sound levels,” Borenstein said.

Borenstein says their method is both cost-effective and scalable to produce commercial quantities of conductive graphene mesh. The graphene mesh heats, electrocutes and neutralizes organic particles and pathogens with revolutionary efficiency compared to active carbon filters, UV-C and fiber HEPA filters that are used widely in schools, offices, homes, ships, and other facilities.

Aircraft are already equipped with HEPA filters that remove viruses and bacteria from the circulated cabin air, but they have high energy and maintenance costs.

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