MIT Researchers Design Silicone Rubber Face Mask, Claimed to be as Effective as N95 Masks
With a rapid increase in coronavirus cases across the world, health safety measures have become much more necessary. While the world faces a shortage of personal protective equipment, researchers at MIT and Brigham, and Women’s Hospital have recently designed a silicone rubber face mask which is claimed to be as effective as N95 masks. These silicone rubber masks are based on the shape of the 3M 1860 style of N95 masks usually used at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
The silicone face mask is made of durable silicone rubber, with space for one or two N95 filters. The filters can be replaced after every use, while the rest of the mask can be sterilized and reused.
One of the key things we recognized early on was that in order to help meet the demand, we needed to really restrict ourselves to methods that could scale. We also wanted to maximize the reusability of the system, and we wanted systems that could be sterilized in many different ways.
Said Giovanni Traverso, an MIT assistant professor of mechanical engineering and a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Heeding the feedback from health care workers, the team is currently working on a second version of the mask, while aiming to launch a company to support scaled-up production and seek approval from the FDA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
In the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, many hospitals have started to sterilize N95 masks with hydrogen peroxide vapor, which can be used up to 20 times on a single mask. However, this process requires specialized equipment that is not available everywhere, and even with this process, one mask can be worn for only a single day.
The team of researchers wanted to design a mask that could be safely sterilized and reused many times, which resulted in the making of silicone rubber face mask.
Several sterilization methods on the silicone masks were tested by the team, including running them through an autoclave (steam sterilizer), putting them in an oven, and soaking them in bleach and in isopropyl alcohol. It was found that after sterilization, the silicone material was intact.
With coronavirus cases increasing rapidly, hospitals all across the globe face the possibility of mask shortages. It has become crucial to mass-produce high-quality face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which has already infected over 15,665,300 people worldwide, with 638,169 deaths.