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Joe Biden’s Administration Debuts $500K Design Challenge For A Better Face Mask
By Mikelle Leow, 05 Apr 2021
Image via Warner Archive
The pursuit of better, more comfortable masks continues, and brands and designers have spent the better part of the past year innovating face coverings that will not only protect against viruses but are also more breathable and less irritating on the skin.
Obviously, the search for the ideal mask isn’t over, so the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is starting a US$500,000 ‘Mask Innovation Challenge’ in hopes that masks of the future would be effective but not as cumbersome to wear.
Designers are encouraged to rethink face coverings so that they are filtration-efficient, have good inhalation airflow resistance, and satisfy fit and other test methods.
“We know that properly and consistently worn face masks help reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory infections, but many people are reluctant to wear them for a variety of reasons,” shared Nikki Bratcher-Bowman, acting assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, in a press release obtained by CNN. “With this mask challenge, we want to get people across the country involved in developing new masks that are both effective and comfortable. This will help us control COVID-19 and be better prepared for future public health emergencies.”
The challenge, valid for US citizens and legal residents, will run through April 21.
It will take place over two phases; up to 10 winners will be announced in the first half and will share a US$100,000 prize, while the second phase will assess prototypes “that leverage research on the filtration efficiency of materials and meet the criteria including filtration, fit, comfort, and how easily the design can be manufactured on large scale.” A US$400,000 prize will be awarded in the second round, tol be split between five designers.
One thing to take note of is that the addition of sprays or drugs cannot be suggested in proposals. Participants also cannot accessorize or revise FDA-approved surgical masks or NIOSH-approved respirators with filters, ear loops, or additional head straps.
HHS will reveal more details about the design challenge as phase two nears. Meanwhile, you can find out more about the program here.
[via CNN, cover image via Warner Archive]
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