Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston have developed the iMASC, a new silicone mask that can be safely reused without fear of contamination. Researchers still need to analyze how effectively it catches viral particles, but it’s a promising step toward addressing the critical health hcare supply shortages.
The masks are based on the shape of a typical N95 mask, too, but they’re made with a silicone rubber that can be sterilized after each use. The dual filters that cover the mouth can be replaced after each use, too, the researchers said.
So they tried their hand at a N95-style mask. They 3D printed the material and tested its use among nurses and physicians, who scored the mask for breathability, fit and ease of filter replacement.
PPE shortages force doctors to reuse contaminated equipment
N95 masks are considered the most effective face covering and can catch up to 95% of particles. But they’re not made to be sterilized and reused.
The Duke team’s biocontamination method takes hours to complete, requires equipment many hospitals don’t have and can only be used up to 20 times for the same mask. The MIT researchers said they knew they needed to create a more versatile process — or product.
“One of the key things we recognized early on was that in order to help meet the demand, we needed to really restrict ourselves to methods that could scale,” said Dr. Giovanni Traverso, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT and a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
The researchers used several different sterilization methods on iMASC, including running them through an autoclave (steam sterilizer), putting them in an oven, and soaking them in both bleach and isopropyl alcohol. The silicone material was undamaged after each test.