Novel Cold Plasma 'Air Curtain' Design Wins $200,000 Funding

The novel device lets you protect yourself from COVID-19 without covering your mouth.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Masks are crucial in protecting us against COVID-19 but they are often uncomfortable and force us to breathe in the air we breathe out causing us to feel suffocated. What if there was a device that could protect from the virus but also allow you to breathe freely?


Now, the University of Michigan is developing a device that could harness the power of non-thermal, or cold plasma into a small headset that both blocks and neutralizes airborne pathogens while allowing you to breathe freely. The new company that designs the device is called Taya Aza and it has been named an awardee in the Invisible Shield QuickFire Challenge, a competition created by Johnson & Johnson Innovation in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). The competition aims to seek protections from airborne viruses with minimal impact on daily life. 

“We’re looking to move beyond what everyone knows as the current standards for personal respiratory protections: the N95 masks, cloth masks and neck gaiters we’ve come to rely on in 2020,” said Herek Clack, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Taza Aya’s CEO and co-founder. “These all rely on the conventional method of particle filtration via a largely impermeable medium."

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“We’re looking at an entirely different paradigm here," Clack added.

The novel indention consists of a visor-like device that takes in air from behind the wearer. It also uses an onboard cold plasma module to successfully inactivate all viruses.

The air that is taken in by the visor is then expelled downward from the brow area, in front of the mouth and nose, essentially serving as an “air curtain” that knocks down particles near the face before they can even be inhaled. The project has been awarded $200,000 in funding from BARDA and we are excited to hopefully see it in production soon.