Although face masks are a must as the coronavirus pandemic continues, they are bad for our environment. You can find them everywhere on earth, including the oceans.
Last year mask pollution rose by a whopping 9,000 percent
Most of these masks are made up of polypropylene or polyester fabric. You cannot even burn them as they emit toxic gases on burning. Most of these find their way in the wild or in landfills. But as they decompose very slowly, they pose a threat to the environment.
Now researchers at Washington State University have used old masks in a cement mixture to create stronger, more durable concrete.
In earlier studies, researchers found that when minute reinforcing fibers are mixed into concrete, it is less prone to cracks. Using this fact, scientists used polypropylene or polyester fabric in discarded face masks as a source of those fibers.
Researchers removed the metal nose bridges and cotton ear loops from these masks. After that, they shred the remaining fabric into fibers ranging from 5 to 30 mm in length. Then they treated the fibers with a graphene oxide solution.
They found the resultant concrete is about 47% stronger than concrete that didn’t contain traces of masks. Moreover, the new material so formed was found to be more resistant to cracking.
“This work showcases one technology to divert the used masks from the waste stream to a high-value application,” said the lead scientist, Prof. Xianming Shi.
The findings of the study were published in Materials Letters.