Georgia Tech professor Sundaresan Jayaraman and principal research scientist Sungmee Park wear prototypes of their redesigned face mask. (Credit: Christopher Moore, Georgia Tech).
Imagine a reusable face mask that protects wearers and those around them from SARS-CoV-2, is comfortable enough to wear all day, and stays in place without frequent adjustment. Based on decades of experience with filtration and textile materials, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have designed a new mask intended to do just that — and are providing the plans so individuals and manufacturers can make it.
The modular Georgia Tech mask combines a barrier filtration material with a stretchable fabric to hold it in place. Prototypes made for testing use hook and eye fasteners on the back of the head to keep the masks on, and include a pocket for an optional filter to increase protection. After 20 washings, the prototypes have not shrunk or lost their shape.
“If we want to reopen the economy and ask people to go back to work, we need a mask that is both comfortable and effective,” said Sundaresan Jayaraman, the Kolon Professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Materials Science and Engineering. “We have taken a science-based approach to designing a better mask, and we are very passionate about getting this out so people can use it to help protect themselves and others from harm.”
The fundamental flaw in existing reusable cloth masks is that they — unlike N95 respirators, which are fitted for individual users — leak air around the edges, bypassing their filtration mechanism. That potentially allows virus particles, both large droplets and smaller aerosols, to enter the air breathed in by users, and allows particles from infected persons to exit the mask.
The leakage problem shows up in complaints about eyeglasses fogging up as exhaled breath leaks around the nose, making people less likely to wear them. The fit problem can also be seen in constant adjustments made by wearers, who could potentially contaminate themselves whenever they touch the masks after touching other surfaces.
To address the leakage challenge, Jayaraman and principal research scientist Sungmee Park created a two-part mask that fastens behind the head like many N95 respirators. The front part — the barrier component — contains the filtration material and is contoured to fit tightly while allowing space ahead of the nose and mouth to avoid breathing restrictions and permit unrestricted speech. Made from the kind of moisture-wicking material used in athletic clothing, it includes a pocket into which a filter can be inserted to increase the filtration efficiency and thereby increase protection. The washable fabric filter is made of a blend of Spandex and polyester.
The second part of the mask is fashioned from stretchable material. The stretchable part, which has holes for the ears to help position the mask, holds the front portion in place and fastens with conventional hook and eyelet hardware, a mechanism that has been used in clothing for centuries.
“We want people to be able to get the mask in the right place every time,” Jayaraman said. “If you don’t position it correctly and easily, you are going to have to keep fiddling with it. We see that all the time on television with people adjusting their masks and letting them drop below their noses.”
Beyond controlling air leakage, designing a better mask involves a tradeoff between filtration effectiveness and how well users can breathe. If a mask makes breathing too difficult, users will simply not use it, reducing compliance with masking requirements.
Many existing mask designs attempt to increase filtration effectiveness by boosting the number of layers, but that may not be as helpful as it might seem, Park said. “We tested 16 layers of handkerchief material, and as we increased the layers, we measured increased breathing resistance,” she said. “While the breathing resistance went up, the filtration did not improve as much as we would have expected.”
“Good filtration efficiency is not enough by itself,” said Jayaraman. “The combination of fit, filtration efficiency, and staying in the right place make for a good mask.”
The stretchable part of the mask is made from knitted fabric — a Spandex/Lyocell blend — to allow for stretching around the head and under the chin. The researchers used a woven elastic band sewn with pleats to cover the top of the nose.
The researchers made their mask prototypes from synthetic materials instead of cotton. Though cotton is a natural material, it absorbs moisture and holds it on the face, reducing breathability, and potentially creating a “petri dish” for the growth of microbes.
“Masks have become an essential accessory in our wardrobe and add a social dimension to how we feel about wearing them,” Park said. So, the materials chosen for the mask come in a variety of colors and designs. “Integrating form and function is key to having a mask that protects individuals while making them look good and feel less self-conscious,” Jayaraman said.
The work of Jayaraman and Park didn’t begin with the Covid-19 pandemic. They received funding 10 years ago from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study face masks during the avian influenza outbreak. Since then Jayaraman has been part of several National Academy of Medicine initiatives to develop recommendations for improved respiratory protection.
Covid-19 dramatically increased the importance of using face masks because of the role played by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic exposure from persons who don’t know they are infected, Jayaraman said. While the proportion of aerosol contributions to transmission is still under study, they likely increase the importance of formfitting masks that don’t leak.
Jayaraman and Park have published their recommendations in The Journal of The Textile Institute, and will make the specifications and patterns for their mask available to individuals and manufacturers. The necessary materials can be obtained from retail fabric stores, and the instructions describe how to measure for customizing the masks.
“There is so much misinformation about what face masks can do and cannot do,” Jayaraman said. “Being scientists and engineers, we want to put out information backed by science that can help our community reduce the harm from SARS-CoV-2.”
The Latest Updates from Bing News & Google News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- 100,000 more COVID deaths projected unless US changes its ways; MIAA announces mandate on masks for indoor sports through Oct. 1on August 26, 2021 at 7:29 pm
Coronavirus case counts are once again rising across the US, near and far. Health officials are scrambling to vaccinate as the Delta variant takes hold.Below, we’re gathering the latest news and ...
- Illinois requires more vaccines, indoor maskson August 26, 2021 at 4:56 pm
Illinois will require all educators from kindergarten through college and health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccines or submit to weekly testing. Gov. J.B. Pritzker also announced a fresh statewide ...
- Illinois is latest state to mandate masks indoorson August 26, 2021 at 2:36 pm
Most cities and counties dropped mask mandates in May and June, but they are returning in a handful of place as the delta variant continues fueling a surge of coronavirus cases.
- Masks requirements back for studentson August 26, 2021 at 2:35 pm
Students and staff at Jericho school district buildings are required to wear masks as the school year begins. Newsday's Steve Langford reports.
- Illinois requires all residents to wear masks indoorson August 26, 2021 at 1:09 pm
The state will also require all healthcare workers and educators in schools and universities to be vaccinated or face strict testing requirements.
Go deeper with Google Headlines on:
Go deeper with Bing News on:
Face mask design
- Jennifer Lopez Keeps Wearing the Stylish Reusable Face Mask That Amazon Shoppers Call 'Comfortable and Breathable'on August 26, 2021 at 4:00 pm
Since the CDC still recommends wearing masks in public indoor places, even if you're fully vaccinated, celebrities are once again stepping out in their favorite face coverings. Jennifer Lopez has been ...
- The 7 Best Face Masks for Glasses, According to Editors Who Swear by Themon August 26, 2021 at 1:58 pm
Best Disposable health - 36 BUY IT Best Water-Repellent health - 18 BUY IT Best Multipack health ...
- Parents Say Kids 'Love These Masks!' — and They're on Sale at Amazon for $8on August 26, 2021 at 6:30 am
While this Amazon deal lasts, parents can get three-packs for as little as $8. The reusable cloth masks have earned over 7,000 five-star ratings from parents who praise their fit and comfortable feel.
- Stock up on KN95s after the updated CDC guidelines: These FDA-approved masks are on sale for under $1 a pop at Amazonon August 26, 2021 at 4:00 am
Masks are as important as ever to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, thanks to the rise of the Delta variant. And, while you might have tossed your old masks, the Centers for Disease Control and ...
- Prepare For a Return to the Office (or School) With Old Navy Face-Mask Packs For All Ageson August 24, 2021 at 10:10 am
Of course, the main reason to wear a mask is to keep others (and ourselves) safe, but that doesn't mean we can't seek out designs that make us feel good at the ...