Image supplied by Copper Fresh.
(Copper Fresh)
  • A Johannesburg company is making masks it says are self-sanitising, killing the SARS-Cov-2 virus just a few minutes after it touches the material.
  • The secret is copper.  
  • Research has shown that copper can be effective in killing microbes in hospital ward furnishings and equipment.
  • The company says people can re-wear a mask dozens of times rather than having to wash, or worse, throw them away after a single use.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za. 

A Johannesburg-based company called Copper Fresh says it has come up with an innovative solution to curb the spread of the SARS-Cov-2 virus by encouraging people to wear pink face masks. 

Founded by a trio of entrepreneurs - David Ash, Dean Lazarus, and Roy Miller – the company says it is making one of Africa’s first masks capable of self-sanitising and killing the SARS-Cov-2 virus just a few minutes after it touches your mask.

“We’ve got the world’s best mask, but nobody knows about it,” said Lazarus.

Image supplied by Copper Fresh.
(Copper Fresh)

“One of the problems with masks is that it doesn’t prevent you from touching your face often. This means every time you touch your face you are spreading new virus onto your mask and contaminating it,” said Miller.

“[Our] mask kills viruses and bacteria. Whereas your traditional blue mask doesn’t. So, if you take your mask off and then put it back on again you are still carrying the virus with you.”

The secret behind the masks is the same reason they sport a pink tie-dye look: copper.

Copper has been proven to be an effective killer of diseases like MRSA, E. coli, Influenza A, as well as the norovirus. The University of Cambridge found copper, and alloys that contain 58% copper, to be effective in killing microbes in hospital ward furnishings and equipment.

It has also been proven to be effective against SARS-Cov-2.

How does copper kill viruses?

When bacteria and viruses meet copper, the metal attracts electrons from the microbes, producing unstable molecules, which then kill the pathogen – an effect so strong it behaves like an exploding grenade.

Source Washington Post

“We saw the pandemic was going to be longer than a 3-week story. We also saw there was a global shortage of N95 masks. Then we saw a sudden flood of KN95 masks, which aren't as good as the N95 and has a short lifespan which would mean billions of masks going to landfill,” said Ash.

“What we realised was in the medical field there is little to no new technology. The stuff we are using today, is the same stuff we have been using for the past 90 years. Nothing has changed. We started making phone calls to people that are looking at coming up with tomorrow’s technology, making it today. Most of our phone calls were late into the night talking to mask making factories and experts. One thing kept popping up…copper," said Ash. 

They found what they were looking for in Israel. There, a company called MedCu Technologies was making fabric infused with copper oxide for paramedics to dress wounds at accident scenes.  

"It gives us great pleasure and pride to take part in protecting the South African people, especially given the vaccination challenge, with the world's first and only active mask with impregnated copper-oxide fabric" said Dr Gadi Borkow, MedCu CTO. 

The fabric is made by impregnating cloth with copper oxide, a process which blows copper oxide into the fabric at a microscopic level on a conveyor belt system. Fabric is then shipped to Johannesburg, where Copper Fresh makes the masks.   

"We put an N95 filter between two sheets of the copper material. So, you’ve effectively got three layers of protection. At current production rate we can make between 40,000 and 50,000 units per day," said Miller.

Image supplied by Copper Fresh.
(Copper Fresh)

Copper Fresh says the masks are capable of self-sanitising, which means you can re-wear them dozens of times rather than having to wash, or worse, throw them away, after a single use.

Depending on production demand, Copper Fresh wants to sell the masks for R25 per unit.

“You can reuse our mask as long as the integrity of the mask is there. You can use it over and over again. Which when you put it alongside an N95 or a three ply – the price itself ends up being a lot cheaper,” said Lazarus.

"As compared to some three-ply masks that you need to throw away everyday or hour a so. On average we are getting a month and a half to two months on our masks it works out to be less than a rand per mask per usage.”

Having just gained South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) approval for manufacture, the company expects to ramp up production within the next few months. 

*The MedCu fabric is TUV,CE and FDA approved.

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