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COVID-19 has been a part of life for a few years and it doesn’t appear to be releasing its hold anytime soon. Scientists have been trying to learn as much as possible to help keep people safe from the virus. Now it seems they have developed a new face mask material that can not only capture the particles but deactivate them too.
The new mask is constructed with a new membrane-based material developed by researchers. When SARS-CoV2 spike proteins come into contact with the material they are captured and deactivated stopping them from entering a person’s cells.
During testing, the face mask was able to target and filter out 99% of airborne particles. This gives the users an important extra layer of protection against infection.
Chemical engineer Dibakar Bhattacharyya from the University of Kentucky said the new membrane-based respiratory mask can not only “filter out the virus like the N95 mask does, but also includes antiviral enzymes that completely deactivate it.”
Researchers worked with a manufacturer to develop the membrane-based material. Then they tested it against SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins that had been immobilized on synthetic particles. The material was able to deter COVID-19-sized aerosols from passing through while demolishing the spike proteins within 30 seconds of contact.
The new face mask material thickness and porosity can be tweaked, leaving the possibility of further improvements in the future open. This means the membrane can be carefully controlled to filter out different types of particles.
A face mask made using the new membrane can be worn for two hours a day for several days without affecting breathability, according to the researchers. Their data showed:
Unfunctionalized membranes provided a protection factor of 540 ± 380 for coronavirus-sized particle, above the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s standard of 10 for N95 masks.
The use of respiratory face masks significantly reduces the spread of COVID-19. Researchers say the new mask provides better protection than the standard N95 used in the healthcare industry.
It is unclear how long it’ll be before the new mask will be on the market. However, considering how effective it’s supposed to be, many people are hoping it is sooner rather than later.
Written by Sheena Robertson
Science Alert: New Face Mask Material Can Capture And Deactivate Coronavirus Particles
Nature Briefing: Aerosol capture and coronavirus spike protein deactivation by enzyme functionalized antiviral membranes