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COVID-19 pandemic: Design tweaks extend shelf life of N95 facemasks, researchers claim

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West Lafayette, IN — Researchers from Purdue University have developed new designs for N95 facemasks they say will extend the shelf life of the respiratory protection commonly used by health care workers.

As demand for N95s has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic, shortages have occurred, making stockpiling and long-term storage of the respirators a standard practice among health care employers. The researchers note, however, that the longevity of the masks is largely affected by the rubber, which deteriorates over time, in the elastic band that secures the mask to the user’s face.

“We designed a way to create the masks using the same filter material on the front, but with different materials for the band and with novel attachment locations and methods,” Hersh Rai, a graduate student in computer and information technology, said in a June 23 university press release.

 

The researchers engineered numerous design options that accommodate bands made of elastic or different materials. The designs allow for additional attachment points for the bands, which can create “a more secure fit without contaminating the front material” and “be swapped out so the mask can last longer,” the release states.

According to a separate release, issued Aug. 7, the Purdue Research Foundation’s Office of Technology Commercialization is seeking patents for the new designs, along with commercial partners to assist with continued development of the project.

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