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WBNS-10TV Columbus, Ohio | Columbus News, Weather & Sports |

The couple and conversation behind Battelle's mask sterilization technology

10TV sat down with OhioHealth Medical Director of Provider and Associate Well-Being Dr. Laurie Hommema and her husband Kevin, a principal research scientist at Battelle to hear the story behind the breakthrough.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A conversation between husband and wife has led to technology that could save the lives of health care workers during this coronavirus pandemic.

Battelle, a nonprofit based in central Ohio, has created a Critical Care Decontamination System to address the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) across the United States. The machines are capable of decontaminating up to 80,000 masks per day at full capacity.

10TV sat down with OhioHealth Medical Director of Provider and Associate Well-Being Dr. Laurie Hommema and her husband Kevin, a principal research scientist at Battelle to hear the story behind the breakthrough.

It all started with a conversation the couple had on March 13 about the need for PPE.

"I said, you know this is going to be a big deal. We are really trying to figure out how to conserve masks. I think I may have even said, 'Goodness, I wish we could reuse them,'" Dr. Hommema said.

Her husband's reply caught her off-guard.

"I specifically recalled a project from four or five years ago where we specifically used this method to decontaminate N95 masks and show they are still reusable for many, many times afterward," Kevin Hommema said.

Dr. Hommema called her boss at OhioHealth, Dr. Doug Knutson, to tell him what she learned.

"I said, 'Doug, Battelle has the science. They did it! Can I look into it and investigate?' He said to run with it," Dr. Hommema said.

The rest was history. Less than 48 hours later, senior leaders from Battelle met with OhioHealth. Within five days, OhioHealth sent the first shipment of PPE to Battelle so they could test the technology they worked on years before.

"That became the number-one priority project in all of Battelle," Kevin Hommema said.

The FDA ultimately gave the project the OK. Battelle's machines will help health care workers not only in Ohio but across the country as well.

"I don't think the gravity of it and how big it is has truly sunk in for me yet," Dr. Hommema said.

Kevin Hommema added, "By the time we are all done with all of this, how many hundreds of thousands or millions of masks might we have decontaminated? That is going to be pretty special once we figure that out. But, right now, nobody is thinking of that. They are just trying to do stuff as quickly as possible."

To learn more about the project, click here.