University of Kentucky

Poster Title

Novel Improvements to Mask and Indoor Air Filtration Technology: Improved Personal Protective Equipment and Public Health

Presenter Information

Matthew BernardFollow

Grade Level at Time of Presentation

Junior

Major

Chemical Engineering

Minor

Mathematics

Institution

University of Kentucky

KY House District #

55

KY Senate District #

22

Department

Chemical and Materials Engineering

Abstract

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic caused a massive global infection since 2020 and has killed over 5.28 million people globally to date. The unprecedented loss of life, saturated medical infrastructure, and crippled economy during this pandemic has exposed our society’s large vulnerability to emerging viral diseases, which have been primarily combated via personal protective equipment (i.e. respiratory face masks) and social distancing guidelines. Despite these measures, transmission of COVID-19 remains an issue that necessitates the improvement of mask and indoor air filtration technology. An improved mask and indoor air filtration material must reject airborne virus particles more effectively than existing products (i.e. N95) and prevent any passed particles from infecting the mask-wearing individual without sacrificing high breathability and comfort of use. The use of thin membranes, as opposed to traditional mask methods, allowed for the nano-specific design of a material to achieve these goals. Careful control over the thickness, porosity, and surface characteristics allowed for the design of a mask material with a higher protection factor than that of existing N95 products. Beyond physical characteristics, the use of surface bound polymer chemistry and a non-toxic enzyme coating aimed to increase the protection offered by the mask material by eliminating the viral infectivity of COVID-19 and other viruses upon contact with the mask. This novel filtration material proposes substantial improvements over existing technologies for both personal face masks and enclosed-room air filtration devices for high-risk ICU hospital units, all levels of teaching institutions, and even domestic households. The goal of developing this material was to help prevent COVID-19 or another emergent disease to have such devastating effects on the health and welfare of our communities, allowing individuals to safely pursue business, education, and socialization opportunities amidst current and future pandemics. This research was funded by the NSF-RAPID program and NIEHS-SRP.

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Novel Improvements to Mask and Indoor Air Filtration Technology: Improved Personal Protective Equipment and Public Health

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic caused a massive global infection since 2020 and has killed over 5.28 million people globally to date. The unprecedented loss of life, saturated medical infrastructure, and crippled economy during this pandemic has exposed our society’s large vulnerability to emerging viral diseases, which have been primarily combated via personal protective equipment (i.e. respiratory face masks) and social distancing guidelines. Despite these measures, transmission of COVID-19 remains an issue that necessitates the improvement of mask and indoor air filtration technology. An improved mask and indoor air filtration material must reject airborne virus particles more effectively than existing products (i.e. N95) and prevent any passed particles from infecting the mask-wearing individual without sacrificing high breathability and comfort of use. The use of thin membranes, as opposed to traditional mask methods, allowed for the nano-specific design of a material to achieve these goals. Careful control over the thickness, porosity, and surface characteristics allowed for the design of a mask material with a higher protection factor than that of existing N95 products. Beyond physical characteristics, the use of surface bound polymer chemistry and a non-toxic enzyme coating aimed to increase the protection offered by the mask material by eliminating the viral infectivity of COVID-19 and other viruses upon contact with the mask. This novel filtration material proposes substantial improvements over existing technologies for both personal face masks and enclosed-room air filtration devices for high-risk ICU hospital units, all levels of teaching institutions, and even domestic households. The goal of developing this material was to help prevent COVID-19 or another emergent disease to have such devastating effects on the health and welfare of our communities, allowing individuals to safely pursue business, education, and socialization opportunities amidst current and future pandemics. This research was funded by the NSF-RAPID program and NIEHS-SRP.