Photo/Illutration Honda Motor Co.’s “Kurumask” (Car mask) when placed over filters for automobile air conditioning cuts airborne viruses using microscopic spikes on its surface. Photo taken on Dec. 1. (Chihaya Inagaki)

Honda Motor Co. has developed a “mask” for use in air conditioning systems in its cars that it says blocked more than 99 percent of airborne viruses in 15 minutes in an experiment.

The automaker produced the product anticipating growing demand for anti-virus items due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But whether it can also protect against the novel coronavirus is unknown as there is no established method currently available to check the mask's effectiveness against it.

“Kurumask” (Car mask) can be used in Honda's slightly remodeled N-Box minivehicles, which went on sale on Dec. 25. The automaker plans to make the mask available for other types of cars as well.

“We want to make drivers feel safe and comfortable even when they keep their car windows closed in cold weather,” said Takaharu Echigo, who is in charge of the Kurumask's development.

Drivers can activate Kurumask by covering air conditioning filters with the product and using the air circulation function to reduce the amount of fresh air that the air conditioning system takes in.

Microscopic spikes on the surface of the mask catch and damage viruses to reduce their virus count.

The development team said it confirmed that the mask is effective against four types of viruses that each possess different characteristics.

The team came up with the idea for Kurumask drawing inspiration from a study by researchers at a university that found microscopic spikes on the surface of dragonflies’ wings work to keep their wings clean.

Their aluminum product uses the same technology as rust-proofing, in which a chemical reaction creates spikes on a material's surface.

Engineers who developed a car for transporting COVID-19 patients also teamed with the Kurumask project to help provide drivers with a safer, more secure environment, the team said.