The researchers believe that the mesh in the masks will slow and inactivate any viral particles in the air.
“This is a completely new mask concept in that it doesn’t primarily block the virus. It actually lets the virus go through the mask, but slows and inactivates it,” said Michael Strano, the Carbon P Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and senior author of the paper.
The prototypes use a 9-volt battery to release an electric current across a 0.1-millimetre thick copper mesh, Fox News reported.
Researchers said that they found that a temperature of about 90 degrees Celsius could achieve between a thousandfold and millionfold reduction in viral particles.
The engineers say that neoprene, an insulating material, would prevent the outside of the mask from becoming too hot to wear.
Dr Strano added: “The prospect of being able to breathe in medically sterile air and breathe out medically sterile air, protecting the people around you and protecting yourself, is just the next step. It’s better technology.”