Face masks have become a daily necessity while fighting against the pandemic. Moreover, people have now become habitual of wearing a mask for their protection as well as others. Not only the pandemic but the masks are also worn against respiratory problems to safeguard from harmful pollutants. High degrees of filtration isn't required in some situations, such as when air pollution is low or when someone is exercising alone outside, which is typically considered a low-risk activity for transmitting COVID-19. Moreover, long-term use of these masks can be extremely uncomfortable.
A research team has developed an innovative, dynamic respirator, looking at the setbacks of currently available masks. The device can modulate its pore size according to varying conditions like air pollution levels or exercise. The advancement is a considerable feat for Face Mask for Anti-Pollution Market. Now users would be able to breathe easily when a high level of filtration is not needed.
The team's goal primarily was to make a respirator that would adapt itself to the changing filtration needs as per different changes. This is because they noticed that masks traditionally could not adjust to an individual's needs. Further, as time passes, the exhaled breath may cause a sensation of heat, and breath, humidity, and discomfort. An exaggeration can result when one is exercising. The researchers addressed these entire problems through the new mask.
The dynamic air filter consists of a microscope that expands once the filter is stretched, making it easier for more air to pass through. The increase in breathing ability was achieved through a filter made up of electrospun nanofibers with a loss of only around 6 per cent in filtration efficiency. The scientists then wrapped a stretcher around the filter and attached it to a small, portable device with a sensor, air pump, and microcontroller chip.
The device works by communicating wirelessly to an external computer running AI (Artificial Intelligence) software that adjusts to the particulate matter present in the air while also changing according to the respiratory need of the user during exercise. Two filters were also placed be on each side of the mask and tested on human participants. It was found that the stretcher was able to correctly generate a slight increase in pore size when a volunteer was exercising in a polluted area in comparison to when he was in clean air.
The significant part is that the AI software offers the respirator the ability to adapt according to the user's specific respiratory characteristics, which might help develop customized face masks. The team added that the stretcher could be redesigned to have a pump-free mechanism making it lighter, smaller, and less cumbersome.