N-95 masks derived their name from the fact that they filter out 95 percent of airborne particles – and have been the gold standard of PPE during the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: File
N-95 masks derived their name from the fact that they filter out 95 percent of airborne particles – and have been the gold standard of PPE during the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: File

Mask innovations: meet the N-95

By Opinion Time of article published Feb 21, 2021

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Farah Khalfe

Johannesburg - What started as personal protective gear for health-care workers has now become an entire industry –with demand outweighing supply and new variations of it being invented.

What is an N-95 mask? And what are some of the innovations since compulsory masking took hold of society last year?

N-95 masks derived their name from the fact that they filter out 95 percent of airborne particles – and have been the gold standard of PPE during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, they are not without their complications. For starters, many people claim they find it hard to breathe while wearing a mask.

N-95 masks are indeed hot and humid on the face. Besides, research has indicated that when wearing an N-95 mask, we breathe in 5 percent – 20 percent less oxygen than normal unfiltered air, and higher proportions of the carbon dioxide we would normally exhale.

To combat this, researchers at Stanford University developed a device that makes the experience of wearing an N-95 mask less stuffy (this is important for nurses and doctors who have to wear them for hours at a time).

The leader of the project, John Xu, aimed to create a device that created its oxygen and then pumped the oxygen to an N-95 mask to make it more comfortable for the wearer.

The team at Stanford developed a working prototype.

The device is a waist-mounted machine that plugs into any standard N-95 mask.

The machine is filled with water, and the battery can be charged to turn water into oxygen, which then flows right into the N-95 mask. At the same time, the second tube in the mask sucks away carbon dioxide. So in theory, someone wearing Xu’s invention will breathe in a mix of gasses that closely resembles normal air.

Xu envisions this invention to go for about $300 (R4 361), however, production has been put on hold for now, as they iron out a few details.

With new waves of the virus being predicted the world over and no foreseeable end to the pandemic in sight, there are sure to be new and improved inventions of the mask to come.

This is the tip of the iceberg.

BUSINESS REPORT

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