Researchers are designing a smart face mask

Researchers from seven countries, including Estonia, envision future reusable and self-disinfecting face masks, based on smart nanotechnology.

According to the plan, these 3D-printed masks will be more comfortable to wear, have excellent filtration efficiency, self-disinfection capacity and an integrated humidity dissipation system, the University of Tartu, Estonia’s pre-eminent university, said in a statement.

“The coronavirus pandemic has shown that the rational use of face masks can drastically reduce infections and deaths. The currently used non-medical face masks have their disadvantages either in terms of efficiency, comfort or time of use. Moreover, we should not overlook the environmental impact of the production and use of disposable masks: an estimated 129 billion masks are produced every month, resulting in several tons of waste every day,” the university said.

An international group of researchers, including Karin Kogermann, an associate professor at the University of Tartu Institute of Pharmacy, set out to develop new-generation reusable face masks.

Self-disinfection properties

According to Kogermann, nanotechnology is a powerful tool that allows producing materials with unique physicochemical and anti-pathogen properties. “Multifunctional materials with unique properties can be fabricated by combining electrospun nanofibers, plasmonic nanoparticles, inorganic nanoclusters and 3D printed structures,” she said in a statement.

The printed reusable face masks would have excellent filtration efficiency, the ability to dissipate humidity and on-demand light-triggered disinfection. “The electrospun layers help dissipate the humidity typically generated into the mask, improving the comfort of mask users. The greatest value of these masks, however, would definitely be their self-disinfection properties,” Kogermann said.

Researchers believe personalised nano-assisted face masks will bring enormous advantages to the entire global community, especially for front-line personnel.

The scientists described their understanding of an innovative face mask in detail in Chemistry Europe journal.

The cover image courtesy of the University of Tartu.

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