Next-Level Masks That Are Transparent, Breathable & Biodegradable Are On The Way
By Mikelle Leow, 10 Jun 2020
Video screenshot via EPFL
While the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t seem to be ending soon, there is still some reluctance towards wearing face masks as they can be uncomfortable, hard to breathe in, and make it harder for others to hear what you’re saying. A solution that combats all these pains is luckily on its way, thanks to researchers from research institutes École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) in Switzerland.
In time for the crisis, the team had spent two years working on HelloMasks, an improved version of face masks that is breathable, protective, and almost completely transparent, allowing people to fully express their empathy for patients and letting the hearing-impaired continue to read lips.
In contrast with several transparent prototypes, HelloMasks do not fog up after multiple breaths, which ruins the purpose of making protective equipment clear. The masks are constructed with organic biomass-based materials, so they’re also biodegradable and recyclable.
To create the material, the researchers used a method called electrospinning, which involves an electrical charge to form ultra-thin threads. The resulting polymer sports fibers that are spaced 100 nanometers apart, mimicking the filter system of typical disposable masks that allows air particles to enter while serving as a barricade from bacteria and viruses.
Fortunately, this isn’t just an experiment. The team has launched a startup to market the innovation and work on manufacturing processes so HelloMasks can go into mass-production. They’re poised to reach healthcare professionals first, hopefully in early 2021, but could roll out to members of the public after a scale-up in production.
We are proud to announce that our project #HelloMask is soon growing into it's own start-up - HMCARE— EPFL_EssentialTech (@EssTechEPFL) June 9, 2020
Félicitations Thiery Pelet and @sidjanskis https://t.co/BQzZFS0NS8#transparentmask #hellomask #covid19 #epfl #empa pic.twitter.com/a42ltRuACw
Scientists of Empa and @epfl have developed a fully transparent surgical mask that will soon be produced on an industrial scale. https://t.co/J2x0Olneqc @EssTechEPFL @SwissTecScience #covid19 pic.twitter.com/hQItyMAZeK— Empa (@Empa_CH) June 9, 2020
[via Gizmodo, images via EPFL]
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