Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have designed a new face mask that they believe could stop viral particles as effectively as N95 masks. Unlike N95 masks, the new masks were designed to be easily sterilized and used many times.

As the number of new Covid-19 cases in the United States continues to rise, there is still an urgent need for N95 masks for health care workers and others. The new mask is made of durable silicone rubber and can be manufactured using injection molding, which is widely used in factories around the world. The mask also includes an N95 filter, but it requires much less N95 material than a traditional N95 mask.

“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,” 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.”

The team is now working on a second version of the mask, based on feedback from health care workers, and is working to establish a company to support scaled-up production and seek approval from the FDA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Traverso is the senior author of a paper describing the new masks, which appears today in the British Medical Journal Open. The lead authors of the study are James Byrne, a radiation oncologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and research affiliate at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research; Adam Wentworth, a research engineer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a research affiliate at the Koch Institute; Peter Chai, an emergency medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and Hen-Wei Huang, a research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a postdoc at the Koch Institute.

Image Credit:  MIT Researchers

Thanks to Heinz V. Hoenen.  Follow him on twitter: @HeinzVHoenen

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