There has been news all around about the shortage of personal protective equipment. The local hospitals were running out of N95 masks which were necessary for the doctors and the nurses. Hence, there were huge responses from local people to produce homemade masks. They started making masks from scratch with available materials. Some made use of old t-shirts and others used different types of cloth to make them.
Making masks is easy; however, there was a question of the efficacy of those masks. Most of them did not provide the required protection from coronavirus, so Northeastern University started research on homemade masks. They tried to find the method and material to make homemade masks that are as effective as N95 masks.
Steve Lustig, an associate professor of Chemical Engineering at Northeastern, explains the method of examining the effectiveness of the masks. He said that according to the literature, wools and single-ply cotton were not as effective as N95. However, he scrutinises and opposes this belief. According to him, several layers of these materials could provide the same potency as N95 masks. Lustig said that the team wanted to “find solutions from materials that were generally available to the public”.
The functions of an effective mask are to absorb wet aerosols from peoples’ speeches, sneeze or coughs, and prevent transmissions. To prevent the wet particles from passing through the mask, it also needed a hydrophobic layer to create a barrier. The researchers built an apparatus to mimic the act of someone inhaling the constant flow of air through the material. Then, the mask contacted an aerosol from a cough or a sneeze. Another professor Ming Su produced fluorescent nanoparticles such as the virus which helped the researchers to further examine the materials. It helped to recognise the poor materials by penetrating through the materials and resulting in its ineffectiveness.
The researchers tested over seventy combinations of fabrics. They found several effective answers, such as the dense terry cloth used as a filter in a mask.