As the pandemic rages, nurses and doctors have gone to creative extremes to reuse the same masks, gloves, and scrubs they need to treat contagious coronavirus patients. But if a prototype mask created by researchers proves widely effective, it may be a safer alternative for health care workers
That’s exactly what researchers at MIT are trying to do
A Reusable Silicon Mask
The iMASC offers a level of protection comparable to N95 respirator masks, its creators say. That’s partially because it uses an N95 filter without all the additional material of N95 masks that catches particles.
How did they do it?
- They 3D printed the material and tested its use among nurses and physicians, who scored the mask for breathability, fit and ease of filter replacement.
- The masks are based on the shape of a typical N95 mask, too, but they’re made with a silicone rubber that can be sterilized after each use.
- The dual filters that cover the mouth can be replaced after each use, too, the researchers said.
Doctors Using Contaminated PPE
N95 masks are considered the most effective face covering and can catch up to 95% of particles. But they’re not made to be sterilized and reused.
Mask Decontamination Research
- It’s a risk researchers don’t want health care workers to take. Peter Tsai, the man who invented the N95 mask’s filtering fabric, has come out of retirement to test sterilization methods.
- A group of Duke University researchers developed their own method of decontamination in March using hydrogen peroxide.
Restricting To Scale Worthy Methods
The researchers used several different sterilization methods on iMASC, including running them through an autoclave (steam sterilizer), putting them in an oven, and soaking them in both bleach and isopropyl alcohol.
The silicone material was undamaged after each test.