Tuesday, 14. September 2021 | 13:50 - 14:00

Hall 2: Innovation Symposium

Program Entry

The Development of a High-Performance Reusable Face Mask

The presentation details the journey of innovating in the space of reusable face masks. The talk identifies several key points pertaining to the reusability of face masks and explains the journey from the basic research and understanding of key physical variables to the development of a product.

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a high-demand in disposable face masks. In turn, these masks have created high environmental concerns by significantly increasing the quantity pf plastic that is discarded in the environment after one or a few uses. The reusable face mask is an eco-friendly alternative to the disposable face mask, but the simple green-awareness is not enough to standardize its use and grow its acceptance. Oftentimes, reusable face masks need to be worn for extended periods of time, e.g., at work, by critical personnel in teams, so it is important to increase their comfort and reusability.

ProMask.CH is an interdisciplinary consortium of Swiss partners from industry, biotech, fashion, academia, and private institutions that was created on March 12th, 2020, two weeks after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Switzerland. By combining the knowledge and expertise of the partners, the ambition of the consortium was to develop affordable, scientifically substantiated, high-performance, reusable face mask, that can be, at the same time, effective, fashionable, and eco-friendly.

Helped by artificial intelligence, the consortium built a multisource and dynamic inventory which led to the testing of the filtration properties and breathability of more than 300 fabrics and combinations of fabrics, populating a space of comfort, design, and high-performance social protection. The scientific results of this process have been shared in a peer-reviewed scientific manuscript.

Specifically, the team first measured the ability of a sufficiently breathable fabric to filter aerosol particles of various sizes and then matched this against a wide range of national and regional standards for reusable masks. A final product was built from the best candidate materials and was further coated with a water repellent layer by Coat-X, one of the consortium partners. This coating, called HydrophobiX, is meant to enhance the mask’s lifespan by preserving its filtration properties and extending its wearing comfort.

The mask and its components not only meet but also exceed the requirements for certification at the European level. It removes close to 100 percent of particles of 3 micrometers or larger from inhaled air, improving filtration efficiency by as much as 35 percent compared with the highest European standard. Maintaining the efficiency after washing means that a reusable mask can replace many single-use, disposable masks, significantly reducing waste. In terms of breathability, the mask outperforms the Swiss and European standards by up to 33 percent.

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