Wearing masks is the most effective way to prevent transmission, experts conclude. There are two types; surgical and N95, which owe their name because they filter 95% of external particles. But these are rare. To try to solve this problem, a team of bioengineers and clinical experts from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are developing a prototype of sterilizable and reusable face mask.
The preliminary results were published in the British Medical Journal Open, where they explain how it works and the results after testing the mask with 20 participants.
iMASC: an easily sterilizable mask
The mask is called iMASC (“Autoclavable injection molded, scalable, conformable”) and is manufactured with a Silicone rubber It can withstand up to 300 ºC of heat and is therefore not damaged after sterilization. As the creators explain, it is a material widely used in other products such as medical implants or underwear and is easily moldable.
Similar to N95 masks, the iMASC system includes one or two N95 particulate filters, but using much less material than traditional filters. The MIT team designed this mask with the idea of being able to safely reuse and sterilize several times.
As they describe in MIT News, the masks are based on the shape of the N95 3M 1860 masks which are already in common use at ‘Brigham and Women’s Hospital’. The difference is that the system allows the filters to be changed after each use and the mask can be sterilized and reused.
During the tests, the researchers tried several different sterilization methods; to immerse them in a solution of bleach, in isopropanol, to pass them through a steam sterilizer, checking that there are no major differences afterwards and that the silicone material is not ‘is not damaged.
An injection molding technique was used to develop the mask, where a liquid material is poured into a mold cavity to shape it. The team used three-dimensional modeling to make different masks suitable for different users, based on 3D faces captured by the camera of an iPhone 11 and ARKit.
Twenty participants, recruited from Brigham Health Center, were chosen to perform fit testing and see how well they could use the mask. 60% said they were ready to use the iMASC system instead of a surgical mask, while 20% had no preferences. A percentage reduced to 25% iMASC preference over N95 masks.
The team is work on a second version, based on feedback received by participants. As Medical Express describes, researchers are also looking for a company that supports their large-scale production to gain FDA approval.
Source : Engadget