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New face mask sanitises infected respiratory droplets

CAPE TOWN – During the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become a norm to wear face masks in public, helping reduce the transmission of the Coronavirus.

However, not all masks work efficiently in reducing the emission and contain infected particles from escaping. Northwestern University researchers are developing a mask that contains a layer of anti-viral chemicals that sanitises infected aerosols.

The team began their research by using modifying mask fabric with a lining of anti-viral chemicals and simulating exhalation, inhalation, coughs and sneezes in their laboratory. The team discovered that non-woven and lint-free fabrics in face masks worked well, did not restrict breathing and chemicals hadn’t detached from the masks during their experiment with a lint-free wipe of 10 percent density sanitising up to 82 percent of the escaping respiratory droplets by volume.

“Masks are perhaps the most important component of the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to fight a pandemic,” said Jiaxing Huang, who led the study. “We quickly realised that a mask not only protects the person wearing it but much more importantly, it protects others from being exposed to the droplets (and germs) released by the wearer.”

The mask consists of a layer that contains antipathogen molecules such as mineral acids and copper salts inactivate infected respiratory droplets that escape from the mouth while talking, coughing or sneezing.

Credit: Northern University

“The chemical modulation strategy could offer additional public health benefits to the use of face-covering to make the sources less infectious, helping to strengthen the response to the current pandemic or future outbreaks of infectious respiratory diseases,” it concluded in the study.

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