The ongoing global pandemic has caused a major shortage of PPEs and N-95 masks for healthcare and frontline workers throughout the globe. Considering this, engineers and researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have come up with a new type of facemask that is as effective as N-95 and can be sterilized using different methods.
N-95 masks are constructed using special material that filters out airborne droplets and fluids that could contain the Covid-19 virus, and for reuse, they need to be sterilized with hydrogen peroxide disinfectants or heat to neutralize any viruses. This not only requires specialized equipment but also takes a couple of days.
On the other hand, the Injection Molded Autoclavable, Scalable, Conformable Mask (iMASC) is made using silicone, with slots for just two small, disposable disks of the N95 material. According to the paper submitted in the British Medical Journal Open, the mask can be sterilized using any method without damaging it. The researchers used a steam sterilizer on the masks, put the masks in an oven, as well as soaked them in both bleach and rubbing alcohol. The mask did not endure any damage.
Apart from this, the research details that a group of 24 healthcare workers wore the new masks and carried out tests involving breathing, talking, moving their head and body, and making facial expressions. According to them, the mask is both wearable and breathable.
The team is currently working on a second mask and plans on developing a rubber mask approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The mask, if commercially produced, will cost around $15. For comparison, N95 masks can cost between $2.80 and $6.95 per unit.