COVID-19: New mask improves protection against corona viruses

COVID-19: New mask improves protection against corona viruses

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New silicone mask to protect against COVID-19

Now a new silicone face mask has been developed that seems to stop SARS-CoV-2 virus particles as effectively as N95 masks. Unlike N95 masks, the new masks are designed to be easy to sterilize and can be used many times.

In a joint research project by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a mask was developed that reliably protects against COVID-19 and is easy to sterilize. The results were published in the British Medical Journal Open.

Is the new mask as safe as N95 masks?

There is still an urgent need for N95 masks during the corona pandemic. The new mask is made of durable silicone rubber and can be injection molded. This manufacturing process is widely used in factories around the world. The mask also contains an N95 filter, but it uses much less material than a conventional N95 mask.

Manufacturing goals

In order to meet the demand for protective masks, the researchers tried to limit themselves to scalable manufacturing methods. The masks should be able to be sterilized in many different ways, and the research group also tried to maximize reusability.

Problems with handling N95 masks

N95 masks that healthcare workers wear to protect against SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses are made from polypropylene fibers. These are specially designed to filter out tiny virus particles. Ideally, medical personnel should use a new mask every time a new person is treated. The lack of these masks, however, forces staff to wear the masks for longer.

Sterilization of masks is not possible everywhere

Many hospitals have started to sterilize N95 masks with hydrogen peroxide vapor. However, this procedure requires special equipment that is not available everywhere, and even with this procedure, a mask can only be worn for a single day, the researchers report.

Why was silicone used?

When developing the new mask, care was taken to ensure that it can be safely sterilized and reused many times. The research group therefore decided to use silicone rubber as the material. Liquid silicone rubber can be produced quickly using the injection molding process and is easy to bring into any shape.

Advantages of the new mask

The masks are based on the shape of 3M 1860 N95 masks. Most of the mask is made of silicone rubber and it is possible to use one or two N95 filters. These filters are designed so that they can be replaced after each use, while the rest of the mask can be sterilized and reused. "With this design, the filters can be inserted after use and then thrown away, and much less material thrown away than with an N95 mask," study author Adam Wentworth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said in a press release.

Silicone material remained undamaged after sterilization

After testing various sterilization methods, such as steam, heating and soaking in bleach and isopropyl alcohol, it was found that the silicone material remained undamaged.

Masks were subjected to a fit test

In order to test the comfort and fit of the masks, they had various subjects carry out the prescribed standard fit test. In this test, the target puts the mask on and then performs a series of movements to determine whether the mask remains in place. A mist of sugar solution is directed into the room. If the test person can taste or smell it, the mask is not properly seated.

Test subjects were very satisfied with the mask

All participants passed the fit test and reported that they were able to successfully insert and remove the N95 filter. In addition, they gave the new mask high ratings for fit and breathability.

The second version of the mask is already being developed

Researchers are now working on a second version of the mask, which they hope will provide more comfort and durability. Additional laboratory tests are planned to measure how many virus particles are filtered. In addition, a company is to be founded that supports production on a larger scale and obtains the necessary permits.

Mask deficiency very likely in the second wave

If a second severe wave of COVID-19 occurs, a mask deficiency in health care is very likely. There is also a need for additional masks in parts of the world that do not have the equipment required for hydrogen peroxide sterilization. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • James D Byrne, Adam J Wentworth, Peter R Chai, Hen-Wei Huang, Sahab Babaee et al .: Injection Molded Autoclavable, Scalable, Conformable (iMASC) system for aerosol-based protection: a prospective single-arm feasibility study, in British Medical Journal Open (published 07.07.2020 Volume10, Issue 7), British Medical Journal Open
  • Engineers design a reusable, silicone rubber face mask, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (published 07.07.2020), Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Video: CoronaVirus: What Type of Mask Should You Get to Protect Against it? N95? P100? Respirator? (May 2022).


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