With the COVID-19 here to stay, wearing masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) have become an integral part of our new normality. Masks have undergone an evolution from the blue-and-white surgical mask to technologically advanced, easy-to-wear and reusable versions. We have collected several newest devices that will allow you to breathe freely.
Pandemic Response CoLab formed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to solve practical problems created by the COVID-19 crisis, launched an initiative asking designers, researchers, engineers, and scientists to reimagine face coverings and PPE. The Social Mask concept by Burzo Ciprian, a young designer and engineer from Romania, was awarded the first prize.
The intelligent mask is still a prototype under development. Apart from a filter ventilation system, the removable modular device at the front of the mask integrates biosensors and Bluetooth capabilities, which allows the intelligent mask to connect to the user’s phone via a dedicated app with different functions like temperature tracking and particle status checking for asymptomatic users. Collecting the data from the mask, the algorithm realizes a percentage of the possible infection with SARS COV-19 and builds a map with all the surrounding users on it, so that an uninfected person can avoid the area with possible infections.
The temperature sensor and its display on the side of the mask shows if the user has such symptoms as high body temperature to those in the immediate vicinity, and send the user temperature to the app in real time.
The mask comes in a minimalist deisgn and is available in a choice of colours. The designer suggests making the device either by 3D-printing with ecological filament or by casting in special molds. Different types of materials such as polycarbonate and polypropylene have been employed to facilitate wearing the social mask by people who suffer from allergies.
Another technological solution originating from MIT takes face masks one step further — from filtering to inactivating the viruses. A team of researchers has developed a reusable mask with an incorporated heated copper mesh powered by a battery that can rapidly degrade viral particles.
According the published research, as the user breathes in, the viruses in the air are slowed down and inactivated by high temperatures, which allows the person wearing the mask to breathe in and breathe out medically sterile air, protecting the people around. This makes the device highly beneficial for spaces where social distancing can’t be achieved.
The researchers have calculated how fast coronaviruses degrade at certain temperatures and trapping conditions and discovered that at 90ºC, the 0.1-millimeter thick copper mesh could reduce between a thousandfold and millionfold of the viral particles. Equipped with a 9-volt battery, the current prototype is able to heat the mask and cool the air before it is inhaled.
US-based startup MicroClimate founded by Hall Labs has designed Air, so far the only personal protection that seals around the neck instead of the face.
Looking like a helmet of a space-traveler, the gear is equipped with a patent-pending ventilation system, featuring HEPA filters (a type of filters used in airplanes, which can clear 99.97% of particles as small as 0.03 micros) for both inlet air and outlet air and two high-powered fans to pull air through them, keeping it fresh and fog free. The manufacturer claims that the device has 4-hours of battery life.
The helmet weighs less than one kilogram and is available in two sizes. The material palette includes removable washable impermeable fabric that directs all incoming and outgoing air into the filtration system, and acrylic used for a visor. The visor does not interfere with expression and allows the user to wear glasses without any issues.
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