Invisible ‘air screen’: Israeli researchers find trailblazing alternative to face masks

A Technion team has found a radically new solution to the conventional mask dilemma by creating an invisible “air-screen” in front of the wearer’s face.

By World Israel News Staff

Researchers at Haifa’s Technion – Israel Institute of Technology have developed a revolutionary invisible facemask to protect wearers against the transmission of COVID, MERS, influenza, and other respiratory viruses, the university announced Sunday.

Although conventional facemasks help protect against disease transmission, recent scientific literature shows that they also present adverse psychological and physiological effects. They reduce facial identification and emotion recognition, adversely affect oral communication, and can cause headaches and skin problems.

Wearing masks throughout the workday also results in a lack of focus, as well as reduced attention and patience in a wide range of professions.

As a result of these difficulties, many people wear masks incorrectly – on or below their mouths – which greatly reduces protection. Even in Japan, where facemasks are common, a large study found that just 20% of people wear masks correctly.

Conventional facemasks have also led to a dramatic rise in plastic waste, exacerbated by governmental mask-wearing mandates, producing millions of tons annual.

Now, a Technion team led by Professors Moshe Shoham and David Greenblatt has come up with a radically new solution to the conventional mask dilemma by creating an invisible “air-screen” in front of the wearer’s face. The air-screen originates from within a lightweight filter-covered unit mounted on the visor of a cap.

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Several major advantages became clear: the air-screen protects the eyes, nose, and mouth without negative effects on facial identity, emotion recognition, or oral communication. It is also reusable, so it does not pollute the environment.

Recently published research, based on experiments conducted in Prof. Greenblatt’s laboratory, demonstrated the air-screen’s efficacy by effectively blocking aerosols produced during oral communication, as well as large droplets produced by coughing and sneezing. It also removes quiescent aerosol-laden air from in front of the face by a process known as “entrainment.”

This joint effect of blocking and entrainment occurs where laser illumination is used to render the airflow visible, as seen in this video:

Several one-on-one interviews and pilot studies with more than 50 subjects from various sectors clearly showed the advantage of the invisible air screen over the commonly used face masks, according to the Technion.  These groups represent potential early adopters, who will benefit most from this new technology in Israel and globally.

The Technion recently licensed the technology to Israeli startup Wisdome Wearables Ltd.