Researchers from IUPUI’s Integrated Nanosystems Development Institute say they are using a metal known for its antibacterial properties to make face masks that are safer and more comfortable for daily use. The institute’s director, Mangilal Agarwal, and IUPUI Associate Professor Hamid Dalir are using a patented technology developed at the university to manufacture the reusable face masks using copper.
The researchers hope to improve filter performance by trapping and disabling airborne virus particles. IUPUI says the reusable masks will offer the same level of protection as N95 masks.
“We wondered how we could use our existing technology to turn something used in ancient times, like copper, into protection against COVID-19,” said Agarwal. “Any virus sitting on the surface that comes in contact with copper will be killed because of the antiviral properties.”
The researchers say copper is a metal often used in the production of high-touch objects like doorknobs and handles.
“These masks have copper oxide applied at the nano level and would offer ultimate protection against virus risks like COVID-19,” Agarwal said. “Some cloth masks allow the small airborne particles to pass through, but with our technology, it would be close to 100% proof that you have the capability incorporated in the mask to deactivate the virus and improve filter performance.”
IUPUI says the technology could be used to “coat household masks with a layer of fabric protection inlaid with copper nanoparticles that disable virus particles as they reach the surface.”
“To make any fabric into a mask or filter, we have to provide the nanostructure, and we can put that nanostructure on a roll-to-roll printing machine with the fibers at nanoscale,” Agarwal said. “We are using electrospinning, using the electric field to spray the nanofibers onto the fabric.”
Agarwal and Dalir disclosed the technology to IU’s Innovation and Commercialization Office and are looking to commercialize it through their startup, Multiscale Integrated Technology Solutions. They plan to work with companies manufacturing COVID-19 supplies under the Defense Protection Act.