Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in New York have developed a method that gives antiviral and antibacterial properties to new N95 face mask filters, which can not only stop the spread but also kill the Covid virus.
They found that incorporating materials with antiviral properties into face masks improved their capability to protect against covid-19 infection. The team claims we can wear these antiviral, antibacterial masks longer, causing less plastic waste as the masks no need to be replaced as frequently.
Chemical and biological engineering assistant professor and a member of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies at Rensselaer, Helen Zha collaborated with materials science and engineering associate professor and also a member of the Center for Devices, Materials, and Integrated systems at Rensselaer, Edmund Palermo to device a way to improve face masks.
How They Modified The N95 Face Mask Which Can Also Kill Covid Virus?
Research published in Applied ACS Materials and Interfaces says that the team grafted broad-spectrum antimicrobial polymers onto the polypropylene filters used in new N95 face masks successfully.
Zha said that the active filtration layers in N95 masks are very sensitive to chemical modification. They are made with polypropylene, which is difficult to modify chemically. It can make them perform worse infiltration, so they no longer perform like N95s. Another challenge is that they don’t want to disrupt the fine network of fibers in these masks, making them more difficult to breathe through.
Zha and Palermo, along with other researchers, covalently bound antimicrobial quaternary ammonium polymers to the fiber textures of nonwoven polypropylene fabrics using ultraviolet (UV)-initiated grafting. Zha said their developed process uses really simple chemistry to create this non-leaching polymer coating for a new N95 face mask that can kill Covid virus and bacteria by breaking open their outer layer. It is a potentially scalable and very straightforward method.
The team used only UV light and acetone in their method, which is widely available, to create it easy to execute. They can also apply this process to already manufactured polypropylene filters rather than requiring the development of new ones.
The team, however, says that it did see a decrease in filtration efficiency when they applied the process directly to the filtration layer of N95 masks, but the solution is straightforward. The user can wear an unaltered N95 mask and another polypropylene layer with the antimicrobial polymer.
In the future, manufacturers can make a mask with antimicrobial polymer incorporated into the top layer.