To help front-line workers at hospitals, testing clinics and other health-care facilities in their fight against the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease it causes, Thermal Product Solutions LLC is working with hospitals in the Northeast to test the efficacy of dry heat sterilization on PPE and N95 masks for re-use.

The manufacturer of thermal-processing and sterilizing equipment has already begun testing at research hospitals. Recent tests show positive results in the dry heat sterilization of masks, face shields, gowns and other personal protective equipment (PPE), with minimal deterioration of the material. During the process, masks were heated to a specified temperature for a calculated period of time that resulted in sterilization of the material. After the sterilization process, fit tests were performed on the masks that passed filtration efficacy, structural integrity and mask fit. TPS is continuing to work with facilities to further confirm test results.

“We are dedicated to finding methods that aid in protecting the health and safety of all those serving on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our dry heat sterilizers have been used for decades in the decontamination and sterilization of all forms of microbial life, and it only made sense to begin testing their efficacy on sterilizing PPE for hospitals and emergency personnel. We are looking to find additional testing partners quickly and ultimately receive FDA approval to help fight the COVID-19 spread,” said Greg Jennings, CEO and president of TPS.

The Gruenberg sterilizers utilize convection airflow and dry heat for the process. Heat is absorbed by the item being sterilized for a period of time until it reaches the proper temperature needed to destroy microorganisms and achieve sterilization. Dry heat sterilizers range in size from small tabletop models to large truck-in models offering 1,000 ft3 of sterilization capacity. The larger truck-in unit is estimated to have the capacity to sterilize 15,000 to 18,000 masks per day based on a cycle time of roughly one hour.

Gruenberg’s smaller dry-heat sterilizers have a design feature where the process chamber is sealed throughout the entire cycle, containing any airborne particulates and sterilizing them. Larger chamber systems have intake and exhaust HEPA filters and heating chamber door-seal options.