Ever since the coronavirus outbreak became a global concern, researchers and health care professionals have constantly advised wearing face masks as a preventative measure. As a result, there have been severe shortages of masks globally. However, there is this new debate on ‘reusable face masks’ popular these days.
A new project created in the hopes to create masks that are heatable and reusable for medical professionals and other people that require it have recently been granted funding from the National Science Foundation. The project comes under researchers from the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science.
The study’s principal investigators, Vesselin Shanov, professor of chemical engineering, and Soryong “Ryan” Chae, assistant professor of environmental engineering, explained the current situation of facemask shortage, a significant number of shortages are occurring of protective equipment under personal use, especially face masks because of the severity of the pandemic in the US. Patients suffering from the illness statistically have 17 face masks consumed on a daily basis by the medical professionals that assist them.
The current prototype that is currently under development by the research team, is expected to eradicate the surface of the mask of any viruses caught on it. The heatable face mask is a promising development in the wake of this deadly pandemic.
The mechanism of the mask is planned to have a slim, porous film made from carbon nanomaterials that have been engineered. This is expected to act as a heatable filter and can be used for the outer surface of the face mask so no infectious and dangerous pathogens can pile upon its surface. This has been a long thought problem with traditional cotton masks as pathogens do pile on their surfaces.
This heatable face mask with its reheatable filter is supposed to have a portable battery or a cell phone as its power source. To make it safe for wearing it is insulated thermally from human skin. It will have the option of working when worn by the user or can be energized in storage for it to be disinfected.
The project is expected to receive the full concentration of faculty members and students coming from diverse backgrounds, the project is currently underway.
The initial prototype of the reusable face mask had come about from the great efforts of Yanbo Fang, a doctoral student in materials science, and Hung Nguyen, an undergraduate chemical engineering student, he played an important role in not only its optimization but also its breathability and role in virus disinfecting.
Surgical and cotton masks were found to be consistently ineffective as a preventative measure from coughs of sufferers with COVID-19. Two hospitals backed these observations after a study was conducted in Seoul, South Korea. The findings of the study found that droplets from infected persons could be released through the masks. The report is published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
A research was carried out by professionals from Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, South Korea asked 4 patients infected with COVID-19 to cough into a petri dish at least 5 times while wearing 2 different masks, they were first told to cough without a mask, then with a surgical mask, a cotton mask and lastly again with no mask.
The masks were also swabbed with aseptic solutions in different sequences after the process researchers found coronavirus traces in all tested surfaces. These findings suggested that face masks were not as effective as people needed them to be.
The study striving to make reusable face masks is aimed as a solution to this problem but efforts to make such face masks effective are still in the process until they can be approved, tried, and tested for the mass public.