Even after more than six months since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the world is still short of N95 masks. There is a limited supply of these masks even for the healthcare and frontline workers who needed them most.
N95 masks were used and then thrown away in normal times. However looking at the shortage, essential workers had to wear these disposable masks for weeks at a time. Some of them started sterilizing and disinfecting the masks.
Now scientists at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have designed face mask capable of being worn again after sterilization.
Gastroenterologist Giovanni Traverso from Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said, “One of the key things we recognised 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 maximise the reusability of the system, and we wanted systems that could be sterilised in many different ways.”
Their goal behind designing this reusable mask is to reduce health waste and plug a shortage for masks
Called the iMASC, which stands for Injection Molded Autoclavable, Scalable is made of silicon and rubber. It comes fitted with two replaceable N95-quality filter inserts. iMASC is made out of slick materials that are highly impermeable and is much easier to sterilize.
For testing these masks, the researchers tried steam sterilizer, putting in an oven and soaking in a bleaching solution. Researchers found that the material of the mask remains unchanged after sterilization.
For testing the wearability in real life, the researchers recruited 20 health care workers. All 20 participants passed the fit test. They found the mask had established a proper seal. It also scored well on ratings regarding its fit, breathability and ease of filter replacement.