Federal agencies Respiratory protection

Respirator Fit Evaluation Challenge: NIOSH announces Phase 1 winners

Photo: NIOSH

Washington — NIOSH has selected 20 winning entries for the initial phase of its Respirator Fit Evaluation Challenge.

The three-phase challenge “seeks practical solutions that deliver real-time information on filtering facepiece respirators.”

For Phase 1, individuals or teams submitted a paper that outlines concepts for delivering “immediate evaluation and feedback to end users about the fit of filtering facepiece respirators.”

The winning entries include Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), infrared imagery and thermal monitoring, fabric-based sensor networks, light sensing (LED), and an app combining artificial intelligence and facial recognition. 

Each Phase 1 winner is awarded $5,000 – part of a total award sum of $350,000.

For Phase 2, the winning teams will design prototypes based on their submitted concept papers. NIOSH will award up to 10 prizes – part of a $100,000 purse – to help the teams build preproduction prototypes, which will be evaluated during the final phase of the challenge.

“Respirators are crucial to protect workers and the public from various respiratory hazards, including airborne infectious agents and wildfire smoke,” Maryann D’Alessandro, director of NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, said in the release. “Many small or disadvantaged workplaces, however, lack the resources for fit testing, and workers at these underserved workplaces and the general public often wear respirators without knowing if they fit properly and provide the expected level of protection. The challenge aims to address these issues.”

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