April 14 (UPI) -- The Pentagon has awarded $415 million to Battelle Memorial Institute to decontaminate used N95 respirator systems amid the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the DoD, which awarded the contract on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services, the deal should allow Battelle to decontaminate up to 80,000 used N95 respirators per system per day -- allowing masks to be reused up to 20 times.
"I remain extremely proud of the selfless efforts of Department of Defense personnel who continue to do everything they can to help provide medical masks, test kits, medicine and meals to support America's military, medical, emergency services and law enforcement professionals who are on the front lines and need them most," Under Secretary of Defense Ellen Lord said in a statement. "This procurement includes a service contract to cover operations and maintenance."
Battelle -- which develops products across a range of disciplines including robotics and oil drilling and has already set up decontamination sites in several American cities -- announced last week that it would be providing decontamination services to healthcare providers at no charge.
According to its website, Battelle uses concentrated, vapor phase hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate masks, and is investigating using the same process to sterilize other medical equipment.
According to the DoD, six systems already deployed should provide health care systems the ability to sterilize 3.4 million masks each week -- reducing the demand for new masks by the same number.
By early May, a total of 60 systems should be available for distribution by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and HSS, allowing 4.8 million masks to be sterilized per day or 34 million per week.
Over the weekend, the Pentagon announced a $133 million order meant to produce over 39 million N95 masks in 90 days.
The department has also pledged 10 million masks from its stockpiles to the Department of Health and Human Services.