After more than three decades of teaching, Peter Tsai retired from the University of Tennessee last year
Health care workers are at increased risk of coronavirus infection as hospitals across the world are facing a shortage of N95 masks amid the pandemic.
The shortage of N95 masks has brought material scientist and engineer Peter Tsai out of retirement, reports the National Public Radio.
Tsai developed the mask's virus-blocking technology, out of retirement to study safe ways to disinfect the single-use masks for reuse — nearly 30 years after his invention.
"I just want to help people, and just do my job," Tsai said in an interview with Morning Edition.
Some medical personnel are resorting to sterilization methods typically used to expunge the virus, like alcohol and bleach as the supply of N95 masks remains short.
However, such methods can degrade the integrity of the masks.
After more than three decades of teaching, Peter Tsai retired from the University of Tennessee last year.
He said researchers racing to find safe methods to sterilize the masks have been flooding his inbox, asking questions about his patented technology.
A team of volunteer researchers at universities and organizations across the US looking at potential solutions for N95 mask decontamination have been seeking his consult. Since mid-March, N95DECON, as the collective is called, has experimented with heat, a type of ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide vapor.
Tsai's colleague, Maha Krishnamoorthi deemed him as a rock-star.
Maha Krishnamoorthi is the vice president of the University of Tennessee Research Foundation.
She said to Tsai: "You seem to be the man of the hour."
To which Tsai replied: "No, I am man of the minute."
Peter Tsai said the praise belongs to the health care professionals who are endangering themselves fighting the coronavirus.
"The front-line hospital workers — they are heroes. I'm just trying to help them to wear the mask."