Photo/Illutration Kazuhiko Hanzawa shows his team's new, high-performance masks at the Niigata prefectural government office in April. An “inner mask,” often worn below a disposable mask, is at far right. (Ayumi Sugiyama)

NIIGATA--Researchers here developed a face mask that can be washed repeatedly and is touted as being able to render viruses inactive.

Kazuhiko Hanzawa, a specially appointed professor of vascular surgery at Niigata University, said the surgical mask can inhibit virus activity even after being washed 100 times.

Few reusable, high-performance masks are currently commercially available.

“The new mask can help prevent infection with the new coronavirus, particularly among the elderly and others who have a higher risk of suffering from serious conditions,” Hanzawa said.

The product, developed with sportswear maker Onyone in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, uses photocatalysis technology to produce active oxygen that can lower the infectious ability of a virus.

Minuscule particles of titanium oxide, which serve as a photocatalyst, are woven into the fabric.

According to Hanzawa, the fabric generates ions if exposed to infrared rays, allowing them to react with oxygen to produce hydroxyl radical, a type of active oxygen.

The double-structure mask is comprised of the photocatalyst fabric and another layer of cloth that blocks particles such as dust.

An “inner mask” to be worn below disposable or cloth masks was also developed, using the photocatalyst fabric.

The double-structure mask will be offered for sale at 2,200 yen ($20.49), excluding tax, and the inner mask for 1,200 yen.

Five sports goods and other stores in Niigata Prefecture are expected to have stocks from May 16. Sales will start outside the prefecture on May 23.