Researchers awarded funding to develop reusable facemasks to help meet PPE shortfall

Article by Amanda Jasi

RESEARCHERS at the University of Cincinnati (UC), US, have been awarded about US$200,000 in funding for a project to develop a reusable mask for medical workers and others which can be disinfected using heat while being worn.

According to researchers Vesselin Shanov and Soryong Chae, there is a significant shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) – especially facemasks – in the US due to the coronavirus pandemic. Shanov is a Professor of Chemical Engineering at UC, and Chae is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering. The researchers add that per Covid-19 patient, medical personnel use an average of 17 facemasks per day.

Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative + Brand
Vesselin Shanov, Professor of Chemical Engineering, displays the carbon nanotubes he created in his lab

The multidisciplinary team at UC is working to design a prototype of a face mask that could be heated to kill viruses caught on the mask’s surface. The team plans to use a thin, breathable film made from engineered carbon nanomaterials as a heatable filter that can be retrofitted onto the outer surface of a commercial mask to prevent a buildup of infectious pathogens.

A portable battery or a mobile phone would provide the power to heat and disinfect the filter, which would be thermally insulated from skin. This could allow disinfection to occur while the mask is being worn.

An initial prototype has already been developed which will be optimised and tested for breathability and inactivation.

The funding for this project was awarded by the US National Science Foundation which funds basic research at US colleges and universities.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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