Does a face mask protect against coronavirus disease? The short answer is yes. What’s more? Nanofibers face masks could be the solution to end the coronavirus outbreak.
Nanofibers masks, which maintains 94% filtration efficiency and are washable up to 20 times, are the newest invention of Professor Kim Il Doo. Kim and his team in the Department of New Materials Engineering at KAIST, a national research university in South Korea, have developed a nano filter made by crossing nanofibers with a diameter of 100 to 500 nm at the right angles to maintain excellent filter efficiency even after repeated washing.
The research team emphasized that by adjusting the type, thickness, and density of nanofibers, they can produce filters of various degrees of performance, such as those of different types of medical masks (KF80, KF94 and N95).
Kim and his team are waiting for the approval of Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety to commercialize the nanofibers masks. Once they receive the approval, the masks will retail at around $2.
These masks, once approved by the ministry, would be ready for mass production. In addition, they will potentially become a great help in resolving the face mask controversy.
Does wearing a mask protect me from coronavirus infection?
World Health Organization has been advising since the coronavirus outbreak that only two types of people need to wear masks. According to WHO, only those who are sick and show symptoms, and those who are caring for the sick must wear masks.
Like WHO, some governments argue that face masks are not necessary to combat the coronavirus disease. However, “even surgical masks protect a bit more than not wearing masks at all. We know from flu research that mask-wearing can help,” according to New York Times.
Nanofibers face masks are washable, durable and environmentally friendly
On one hand, a disposable face mask is a single-use product. On the other hand, a nanofibers face mask is much more environmentally friendly. People need to replace the nanofibers mask filters only after 10 to 20 washes. And they can use the mask itself over and over again by hand washing.
According to Asia Economics, Professor Kim and his research team conducted an ethanol sterilization washing experiment. They confirmed that the initial filtration efficiency maintained 94% or higher even after 20 washings. The structure of the nanofibers stayed the same after 20 washings. When they soaked it in ethanol for more than 3 hours, the nanofibers did not melt or warp. In other words, people can use the nanofibers masks for up to a month if they wash them with sterilized ethanol.
In another test, researchers bent the filter 4,000 times to find out that it maintained the performance of a KF80 mask (600 nm particles, 80% filtration efficiency).
Professor Kim said, “Soon, we will follow the relevant procedures such as getting the ministry’s approval and plan to start producing the mask filters as soon as the approval comes in.”
With the permission from the ministry, Professor Kim plans to increase nanofibers mask production from 1,5000 to 50,000 sheets. Before mass production, there are a few steps left to perfect the nanofibers face masks.
“When synthesizing nanofibers, an organic solvent is used, and organic solvents may remain in the nanofibers, so it is necessary to have some procedures to check whether such a residual solvent remains,” Professor Kim said.