New face mask material can capture and deactivate coronavirus particles

The COVID-19 pandemic is by no means over, but over time scientists are learning more and more about the virus – and the different ways we can protect ourselves against it, including novel face masks. and improved.

A new membrane respirator mask developed by researchers can capture and deactivate SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins when it comes into contact with them. These advanced proteins allow the virus to enter host cells once they are in the body.

According to tests, nearly 99% of targeted airborne particles can be filtered out by the new mask, providing wearers with a vital extra layer of protection when it comes to avoiding infection.

“This new material can filter out the virus like the N95 mask does, but also includes antiviral enzymes that completely deactivate it,” says chemical engineer Dibakar Bhattacharyya from the University of Kentucky.

“This innovation is another layer of protection against SARS-CoV-2 that can help prevent the spread of the virus.”

After developing the membrane with a manufacturer, the researchers tested it using SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins that had been immobilized on synthetic particles. It was able to block coronavirus-sized aerosols from passing through while destroying spike proteins within 30 seconds of contact.

The membrane can be modified in terms of thickness and porosity, leaving open the possibility of further improvements in the future. This means that the type of particles filtered by the membrane can be carefully controlled.

According to the team, a mask using this membrane could be worn for two hours a day for several days without affecting breathability. This means masks don’t have to be replaced as often, so fewer used masks need to be disposed of over time.

“Innovative development of smart, low airflow resistance filtration materials that can filter, capture, and deactivate aerosolized viral particles may offer immense benefits to human health and the industrial workplace,” the researchers write in their published article.

The protection factor offered by the new mask is higher than the N95 mask standard, which is certified capable of filtering out 95% of particles (hence its name). N95 masks have three or four layers of fibers, plus an electrically charged filter layer.

Currently, the N95 mask is the most commonly used in the healthcare industry, although there is still room for improvement. With their new mask, the researchers arrived at 98.9% for 100-nanometer aerosol particles (including those carrying SARS-CoV-2).

What the researchers aren’t saying is how long it will take to get this material from the lab into masks that you can actually go out and buy – although given how effective it promises to be, we hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. only later.

“The use of respiratory masks allows a significant reduction in the spread of the coronavirus, because it has been proven that viral spread occurs mainly via two modes of transmission: the spread of droplets and the inhalation of infectious aerosols suspended in air,” the researchers write.

The research has been published in Communication media.

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