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New York researchers develop N95 masks that kill viruses on contact

06 Jul '22
2 min read
Pic: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Pic: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

A new and improved version of N95 face masks has been developed by researchers from the New York-based Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The masks boast of antiviral and antibacterial properties, and also last longer and cause less plastic waste. These masks would be highly useful in the fight against COVID-19 as they can kill germs on contact.

The Rensselaer research team was able to successfully attach broad-spectrum antimicrobial polymers over the polypropylene filters used in N95 face masks with the help of ultraviolet (UV)-initiated grafting and acetone, according to a study published in Applied ACS Materials and Interfaces. Moreover, this process can also be utilised for already manufactured polypropylene filters.

Helen Zha, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering and a member of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) at Rensselaer, teamed up with Edmund Palermo, associate professor of materials science and engineering and a member of the Center for Materials, Devices, and Integrated systems (cMDIS) at Rensselaer, to upgrade face masks to effectively battle infectious respiratory disease and environmental pollution. Other contributors to the project include Mirco Sorci, Tanner D. Fink, Ruiwen Chen, Katharine Dovidenko, and former Rensselaer researcher Brigitte L. Arduini as well as Vaishali Sharma, Sneha Singh, and Caryn L. Heldt from Michigan Technological University.

“This was a multifaceted materials engineering challenge with a great, diverse team of collaborators,” revealed Palermo in a press release from Rensselaer. “We think the work is a first step towards longer-lasting, self-sterilising personal protective equipment, such as the N95 respirator. It may help reduce transmission of airborne pathogens in general.”

The project titled ‘Virucidal N95 Respirator Face Masks Ultrathin Surface-Grafted Quaternary Ammonium Polymer Coatings,’ which began in 2020, was funded by a National Science Foundation Rapid Research (RAPID) grant. It was started in response to the scarcity of N95 face masks.

“Hopefully, we are on the other side of the COVID pandemic,” added Zha. “But this kind of technology will be increasingly important. The threat of diseases caused by airborne microbes is not going away. It’s about time that we improved the performance and sustainability of the materials that we use to protect ourselves.”

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (NB)

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