Sum Studio Creates Cellulose Face Mask Out of Bio-Based Materials
Amid these stressful times of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an ongoing race to provide efficient and effective amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers. People have been coming up with creative solutions varying from 3D printed shields to DIY face masks. While many of these PPE have been created out of plastic, Sum Studio has created a cellulose face mask out of bio-based materials.
However, Elizabeth Bridges and Garrett Benisch of Sum Studio have spent the lockdown conducting experiments that resulted in prototype of a microbial cellulose mask. The duo of bio-designers explored the natural world, which has an abundance of filters, membranes, and woven barriers that can be utilized.
Xylinum Mask by Sum Studio
They decided to grow their own bacterial cellulose face mask in their home quarantine kitchen while trying to find some possible ways that this project could be iterated to function alike the melt-blown N95 fabric. It shows that it is feasible to be growing filtration material rather than producing it from plastic.
Cellulose is created by a common bacteria, called Acetobacter Xylinum, on the surface of a liquid that they inhabit. As it happens, the bacteria and its cellulose can be grown with as little as water, tea, sugar, and a small sample feed.
As the bacteria multiply, they interweave cellulose fibers into a single film that can be collected and dried as usable material. Though translucent and smooth, the tight web of cellulose fibers that make up this membrane can be seen under the microscope.
Once the material gets enough thickness, it can be detached and hung to dry as a flat sheet. This sheet is flexible and strong, yet easily degrades into the environment. It is easy to waterproof it and oil it with the natural ingredients to have a softness and strength of thin leather.
The whole process takes around a fortnight. The production of this material can be escalated quickly with multiple batches in time.
The fibers are too thin and tight to easily breathe through, but there are existing methods that allow to engineer around this to heed to individual material needs. These masks have equivalent filtration to N95 masks.
It can be effortlessly grown in local municipalities, homes, or even within the hospitals. As the bacteria weave to the shape of the container they are in, products can be grown specifically special molds so that the sheets can be grown to standard specification.
Dissimilar to the plastic masks that are used once and then plague the environment for years, these cellulose masks would decompose as easily as household vegetables. Xylinum mask by Sum studio promotes the benefits of biodesign, which could provide a sustainable alternative to the plastic made masks that lead to plastic pollution.