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A group of Gazan engineering students have designed an energy efficient ozone gas generator that reduces the amount of time needed to sterilize hospital rooms and surgical theaters. The three students, and their mentor who came up with the generator's blueprint, hope their prototype device will soon be used to sterilize hospital rooms in Gaza, where health officials say the Israeli blockade renders current cleaning techniques haphazard.

Many hospitals around the world use large ozone generators to decontaminate operating rooms between surgeries. Rooms are usually cleaned and sealed before being filled with ozone gas which kills or neutralizes any remaining bacteria. Ozone can be used as a surface disinfectant and also sterilized air.

The idea was the brainchild of engineer Mohammed Timraz, who works in various local hospitals in the Gaza strip. Alongside students from Gaza's University College of Applied Sciences, the group created a device which activates oxygen gas and transforms it into ozone gas by using an electric charge of 80,000 volts.

The discharged ozone gas reaches all parts of a room, including those not normally reached by traditional disinfectant treatments commonly used in hospitals. It will also decontaminate surgical equipment - the ozone gas purifying the atmosphere in the room and killing viruses and bacteria harmful to patients. The machine is mobile and can generate ozone gas directly from the atmosphere or from any supply of oxygen.

Timraz says their generator, called 'O3', not only effectively sterilizes rooms, but is actually faster and more economic than traditional generators used for cleaning.

"Compared to the other devices used around the world that generate ozone gas and sterilize 40-50 square meter rooms requiring five to six days which is not practical, this device that we have created requires only three to four hours making it useable on a daily basis," Timraz said.

Timraz said he has witnessed first-hand the health problems and infections associated with a lack of proper sterilization in operating theatres. The Gaza Strip, now under its seventh year of Israeli blockade, complains of a lack of medicine and equipment vital to providing proper health care to the territory's 1.6 million residents.

Timraz says the equipment now being used in hospitals is ineffective in properly sterilizing rooms, putting thousands of people at risk of serious infection.
Student Mohammed Lafee says they are now waiting for an official license from the Palestinian Ministry of Health, as well as funding, in order to build more generators.

"We are waiting for organizations to support us, in order to introduce this device to hospitals, and we hope to get a license from the Ministry of Health for this device to be used in hospitals," Lafee said.

Cardiologist Marwan Sadiq says the ozone generator will help improve the level of health care in Gaza.

"This invention will decrease the percentage of infections after surgery, especially major surgery, open-heart surgery and joint replacement surgery. Bone surgeries, in particular, require a high level of sterilization, so we are extremely supportive of engineer Mohammed, because we know that this will improve the level of health care here in Gaza," Sadiq said.

Israel maintains that the blockade of Gaza, which began in 2007, is necessary to limit Palestinian rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip on its cities and to prevent guerrilla organization Hamas from obtaining more weapons.