Scientists at the MIT, Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a new face mask that could stop viral particles as effectively as N95 masks. It is made up of durable silicone rubber and can be manufactured using injection molding, which is widely used in factories around the world.
Also, the mask includes an N95 filter, but it requires much less N95 material than a traditional N95 mask. Unlike N95 masks, the new masks were designed to be easily sterilized and used many times.
The masks are based on the shape of the 3M 1860 style of N95 masks. Most of the mask is made of silicone rubber, and there is also space for one or two N95 filters. Those filters can be replaced after every use, while the rest of the mask can be sterilized and reused.
The team used liquid silicone rubber material for the mask because it is so durable.
The team tested several different sterilization methods on the silicone masks, including running them through an autoclave (steam sterilizer), putting them in an oven, and soaking them in bleach and isopropyl alcohol. They found that after sterilization, the silicone material was undamaged.
The team is now working on the second version of the mask that is expected to be more comfortable and durable. They are also planning to do additional lab tests measuring the masks’ ability to filter viral particles.
James Byrne, a radiation oncologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and research affiliate at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, said, “We know that COVID is not going away until a vaccine is prevalent. I think there’s always going to be a need for masks, whether it be in the health care setting or in the general public.”
- Injection Molded Autoclavable, Scalable, Conformable (iMASC) system for aerosol-based protection: a prospective single-arm feasibility study. DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-039120