Liat Goldhammer is the CTO (chief technology officer) of Sonovia, a company with a remarkable mask designed to protect the wearer from COVID-19. As the pandemic continues to spread and people around the world search for ways to stay safe, she spoke with Travelgirl Publisher Renee Werbin about the exciting breakthrough.
Travelgirl: We are thrilled to hear about your product. Most masks protect the other person, not the person wearing the mask. What is the science behind your mask?
Liat Goldhammer: Our patented technology utilizes ultrasonic energy to infuse textiles via a sustainable process, which makes our masks wash-durable and infuses them with antiviral, antimicrobial, antifungal and anti-odor properties. We apply a zinc-oxide-based, green, and safe formulation on our masks. The ZnO infused in our masks creates a reaction that modifies the bacteria and viruses’ structure, thus killing them upon contact and ensuring that both the person wearing the mask and those around them are protected.
The resulting material provides proven protection against viruses, including SARS-COV2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19, and all types of bacteria (including antibiotic-resistant bacteria). The masks can be washed numerous times while maintaining their high antiviral/antimicrobial performance, thus, preventing the environmental risk of biological hazard waste.
Our masks do not resemble N95 or surgical masks; they are created for use by the general public in non-high risk areas, in everyday life routines as is clearly indicated on our packaging and our website. The protection we provide is in two levels: particle filtration of 98 percent for 5 micron diameter particles, and antimicrobial/antiviral properties with multiple wash durability.
TG: How do you know these masks protect against COVID-19?
LIAT: In March, during the peak of the pandemic spread, we were approached by research labs in China and were asked to send our fabrics for testing at a leading Chinese laboratory. The results, received in late May, were very promising. Our antiviral fabrics managed to neutralize over 90 percent of SARS COV-2, which causes the COVID-19, within a very short exposure. Additional tests conducted in the well-known HygCen medical laboratory in Austria also proved that Sonovia’s textile finishing prevents viral contamination of the textile and thus protects the wearer, as it demonstrated more than 99 percent efficacy against the tested virus.
Our technology was initially developed to fight Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) – a global concern affecting the lives of millions of patients. Sonovia participated in the EU-funded research program Horizon 2020. As part of this program, we ran clinical trials to prove our ability to prevent or significantly reduce HAIs. The results were excellent, with Sonovia’s technology proven to fight all types of bacteria.
All of our testing is carried out in external, well-known laboratories accredited by international standards. All testing protocols follow international test performance standards (For example, ISO 18184: antiviral performance of textiles).
TG: We love that your product comes in all sizes, including child sizes. Do you think kids could safely return to school if they wear your mask?
LIAT: In our opinion, it is very important to be able to have kids return to their daily routine, which includes attending school, visiting relatives and playing with friends; we want children returned to normalcy. Nevertheless, wearing a mask all day is challenging for kids and the mask must not only protect against infections but also be comfortable and breathable. We have invested efforts to ensure our masks are as comfortable and breathable as possible. We started commercialization of the SonoMask Kids in May and received very positive feedback from our young users, parents, and teachers. Kids managed to keep our masks on for long periods, protecting themselves and the people surrounding them.
TG: How do you care for and clean the mask?
LIAT: The care instructions we provide with our masks suggest hand washing the mask in warm water (up to 60 degrees Celsius), at least once a week with or without detergent. Using the washing machine is also possible, in a gentle cycle with detergent only (without bleaching agents or softeners). The best way to dry the mask is by laying it flat to dry, but it can also be tumble dried on low.
TG: Sonovia didn’t initially create masks. What prompted Sonovia to begin making masks?
LIAT: People started contacting us for reusable, antiviral and anti-bacterial face masks. We responded by using our treated fabric to create face masks, which filter particles of up to 5 microns, following the guidelines set by the World Health Organization in the fight against COVID-19. The first masks were donated to help those who are most at risk. In parallel, we established a thriving e-commerce business to offer the SonoMask protection to the general public. Due to the great response of the public we were able to massively scale-up sales and production, and we managed to improve the design of the SonoMask. Within three months, we established a fully functional e-commerce company, which is sustaining continual growth. Currently, we are looking to expand our line of products and are very excited about the future.
TG: What can you tell us about the ideals and goals of the company?
LIAT: Sonovia was established with an initial focus to industrialize the technology for fighting HAIs and to save lives. The technology is the result of 15 years of research in the field of sono chemistry. Professor A. Gedanken and his team managed to treat textiles, infusing antiviral and antimicrobial agents. Our goal is to revolutionize and alleviate the challenges generated by the excessive use of chemicals by the textile industry — the second most polluting industry in the world.
We are constantly working on new chemical formulations for a wide range of properties such as water repellence, crease- and stain-resistance, fire retardance, and more. This will allow textile producers to use safe, green, and sustainable production processes to meet the growing environmental demands while keeping the process simple enough to implement into their existing production line at a competitive cost. The technology can be applied in different areas: protective wear for medical institutions and public health, implementation in the transport industry (public transport, airplanes, autonomous cars, taxis, and ride-sharing platforms) as well as in hospitality (hotels, restaurants), public areas (wedding and concerts halls, cinemas), home textiles, apparel, etc.
Sonovia is an alumnus of “Fashion for Good,” the world’s leading accelerator scouting technologies that offer sustainable solutions for the textile and fashion industry. The accelerator is supported by leading brands such as PVH, Target, Adidas, Kering Corp., and others. Sonovia is working with various tier-one brands and collaborations in progress are promising.
TG: I agree with your prediction that in the next decade many of us will not own cars and will be riding in shared vehicles. Please talk about these sanitizing fabrics and how they will protect the passenger.
LIAT: As public transportation and carpooling become the primary mode of transportation, passengers are exposed to high-risk infections from the many passengers of these shared vehicles. As a typical vehicle interior consists of about 20 percent textile materials. With textiles being a known carrier of bacteria and viruses, the textiles composing the interior of a vehicle must be enhanced to prevent bacterial and viral growth and protect the users. The solution that Sonovia provides ensures that drivers and passengers do not acquire infections during their use of the vehicle as long as the textiles in the vehicle are treated with our novel Sono finishing technology.
TG: This is a novel idea and will protect thousands of medical workers, etc. Who else could benefit?
LIAT: Athletes, soldiers, and emergency service workers to name a few, as they wear uniforms or clothes that are exposed to, or can accumulate viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Utilizing Sonovia’s textile finishing will protect against viruses and bacteria while maintaining comfortable, anti-odor clothing. Other wearable applications include underwear and children’s wear; service providers such as waiters and chefs would also benefit from sanitized apparel. In addition to being antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-odor, we are developing fire-retardant and water-resistant applications, further broadening the applications for the technology.
TG: Does Sonovia have any strategic partners?
LIAT: Sonovia has a strategic partnership with Bruckner Textile Technology, a tier-one textile finishing machinery manufacturer. With Bruckner’s partnership, global reputation and presence, Sonovia will be able to penetrate the global conservative textile industry more effectively.
TG: What’s next on the horizon?
LIAT: We are currently working on our initial public offering (IPO), and plan to complete it by the end of the year. We are constantly seeking investments and industrial strategic collaborations to speed up our time to market and develop a wide range of textile applications and products to complement our mask business. In this round, we are accepting investments based on a company valuation of US$20 million, in exchange for equity in the company.
TG: Perhaps the most important question: How can our Travelgirl readers purchase these masks?
LIAT: Please ask your audience to go online to Sonovia’s website, www.sonoviatech.com. We’ve created a special coupon for Travelgirl readers. Just type the code “Travelgirl” and enjoy a discount from us.