Tech Transfer eNews Blog

Researchers at MIT and Brighman and Women’s Hospital develop reusable mask for healthcare workers


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: July 29th, 2020

Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a reusable face mask that appears to prevent viral infection just as well as the non-reusable N95 masks.

Due to general shortages of the N95 mask, healthcare workers during the pandemic have been wearing their masks longer than they are meant to be worn in order to conserve supplies. Many hospitals have been sterilizing the masks for reuse, but that requires specialized equipment and only extends a mask’s life to one day.

The new mask is made of durable silicone rubber that can be safely sterilized and used many times. It still features the effective N95 filter, but rather than disposing of the entire mask after each use, hospital workers can simply remove the used filter from the mask and replace it with a new one. The technology can be manufactured through injection molding, a common method used in factories around the world.

“One of the key things we recognized early on was that in order to help meet the demand [for N95 masks], we needed to really restrict ourselves to methods that could scale,” says Giovanni Traverso, an MIT assistant professor of mechanical engineering and a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “We also wanted to maximize the reusability of the system, and we wanted systems that could be sterilized in many different ways.”

Having gotten feedback from healthcare workers, the research team is now working on a second version of the mask that would be more comfortable and durable. Eventually, the researchers plan to launch a start-up to scale up production and receive FDA approval.

“We know that COVID is really not going away until a vaccine is prevalent,” says James Byrne, a radiation oncologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and research affiliate at MIT’s Koch Institute. “I think there’s always going to be a need for masks, whether it be in the health care setting or in the general public.”

Source: MIT News

Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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