Researchers at the University of Notre Dame are working to develop a new fabric for antimicrobial masks that could potentially be reusable. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the university says the nearly $100,000 Rapid Response Research grant will enable scientists and engineers to create a new fabric that captures and deactivates viruses.
Notre Dame says typical masks only have a one-time use.
“Our team previously created a proprietary composite nanofiber material for water filtration that we believed could be fairly easily translated and utilized to filter air. Once the pandemic hit, we began to think more critically about how we could make an air filtration material for face masks that not only meets a critical need for health care professionals, but improves them,” said Nosang Vincent Myung, the Keating Crawford Endowed Professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Notre Dame.
Through a 10-year collaboration, Myung and David Cwiertny, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Iowa, developed a new material that maximized water filtration performance while minimizing the cost. By using this material’s unique formula, the university says researchers aim to mimic the pathogen-capturing process for air filtration as well as include an antimicrobial function.
Patrick O’Shaughnessy, professor of occupational and environmental health at the University of Iowa, will join the team to assess the efficiency of the material’s ability for capturing airborne particles.
Additionally, Kyle Bibby, the Wanzek Collegiate Chair in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences at Notre Dame, will test if it’s effective as well as how successful the material is at deactivating airborne viruses.
“The water filter materials Nosang and I developed have always been hybrids — both blocking and reacting with molecules. Now we are looking forward to applying this same concept to a product that could protect people within the health services industry and those that may be exposed to other air-compromised environments,” said Cwiertny, co-lead on the project.
Notre Dame says Myung and Bibby are affiliated with the university’s Advanced Diagnostics and Therapeutics initiative.