The Foundry’s Jeff Urban, Director of the Inorganic Nanostructures Facility, recently collaborated on a review on the state of filtration media and respirator technology in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a surge in demand for N95 or equivalent respirators that the global supply chain was unable to satisfy. However, this shortage in critical equipment has inspired research that addresses the immediate problems and has accelerated the development of the next-generation filtration media and respirators.
The review article discusses filtration efficiency of widely used cloth masks, the sterilization and reuse of existing N95 masks, optimization of current manufacturing methods, as well as investigations into future manufacturing methods, novel materials, and additively manufactured respirators.
The researchers conclude that long-term solutions require the development of novel respirator materials and material manufacturing methods. The research and development of filter media with antiviral properties and increased use life, as well as the deeper exploration into the melt-blown, electrospinning, and AM ceramic processing has revealed numerous paths forward that would provide a significant improvement over the current commercially available options. These advancements will help usher in the next generation of personal protective equipment, which will prove invaluable for medical practitioners and the general population in the future.