Face mask filter acts like Velcro for coronavirus

Thursday, 09 December, 2021

Face mask filter acts like Velcro for coronavirus

Scientists from the University of Lincoln have developed a new and affordable formulation to increase the effectiveness of face mask filters at trapping coronavirus particles, retaining up to 99.6% of the virus.

During the early phase of the pandemic, the coronavirus-defying properties of seaweed extract Fucoidan were identified in the journal Nature — specifically, its ability to stick and immobilise SARS-CoV-2 onto a surface. However, Fucoidan is expensive and difficult to obtain in the UK, so the Lincoln team developed formulas with similar outcomes using cheaper and more readily available materials. These formulas were inserted into biodegradable filters, tested for permeability and sent to an independent laboratory to be tested for efficacy in capturing coronavirus.

When treated with the formulation, filter fibres act almost like Velcro for the virus. Results show that if an airborne coronavirus contacts the surface of the filter, it will stick because of the similarity to the human tissue surface that the virus would normally attach to. The filter formula therefore increases the efficiency of trapping the virus without making the mask uncomfortable to wear or more difficult to breathe through.

“As restrictions are eased and life is gradually returning to pre-pandemic normality, these filters could prove crucial in preventing further rising rates of coronavirus,” said Associate Professor Nick Tucker, who led the research.

“The connection between design, science and engineering is important too — it is no good inventing a formulation that is too expensive or too difficult to make.”

With the team’s results having already been tested to a recognised international standard by an independent standards laboratory, the university’s Fashion Design department is now working with a local company, Countryside Art, to produce a commercial face covering incorporating the filter material. The team are also keen to explore further opportunities with a range of partners in this area.

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