“I want the country to know that if I end up on that ICU bed, it is because I was not given enough PPE to protect me. Why is it that when my shift ends, I peel off the same N95 mask that I have worn for 12+ hours straight? I have breathed in stale air all day on a unit rife with the dying”
— KP Morgan. Nurse at The Mount Sinai Hospital
The successful management of a COVID-19 pandemic is reliant on the expertise of healthcare workers at high risk for occupationally acquired influenza. The recommended infection control measures for healthcare workers include surgical masks to protect against droplet-spread respiratory transmissible infections and masks to protect against aerosol-spread infections.
However, every time the healthcare worker goes into a COVID patient’s room they expose themselves - putting workers in jeopardy. It is not one patient and one exposure, it’s multiple exposures. Putting workers on getting gravely ill each day without having proper protection.
What it does
** Disinfection of the breathing air with UVC LEDs **
Epsylon is a reusable face mask with over a 99 percent protection against infectious agents. It deactivates the viruses and bacteria using UVC led lights which in our masks have been proven to be harmless to the body. To ensure a cleaner and safer environment, the textile filter prevents dirt and other coarse particles from entering the breathing space of the wearer.
In comparison with the traditional surgical masks and N95, Epsylon enables lip-reading making the mask inclusive and accessible. It is light and can be worn for long hours in addition to being durable with an estimated lifespan of over 5 years.
Lastly, the mask is not only built for the safety of the wearer but also for those around them; the mask filters exhaled breath making it close impossible to infect other patients or health care workers since the mask cleanses the inhaled and the exhaled breath.
Overall, the efficiency of Epsylon much higher than the current one on the market for two key reasons:
1) Using silicon technology, loose points are efficiently sealed providing more protection from entry of unwanted particles 2) Currently, the maximum efficiency of masks on the market is 95% whereas with Epsylon we were able to accomplish an efficiency of 99%. This number is estimated to rise to 99.99% with the use of higher quality LED lights giving rise to the overall quality hence the efficiency rates.
How I built it
The Epsylon mask primarily is made using UVC. There are currently UVC LEDs with an area of less than 5 x 5 mm; showing an optimal scattering angle of UVC light. They emit light for disinfection with wavelengths between 260-270 nm each LED has an output of at least 80 mW. The LEDs can be operated with a voltage of less than 8.8 V.
Every virus needs a different dose of UV light to neutralize it. The reduction always takes place in the log10 area. For example, if you need 10mj/cm^2 for a 90% reduction, then you need 20mj / cm ^ 2 for a 99% reduction. If COVID-19 were similar to the Spanish influenza virus, 3mj/cm^2 would suffice for a 90% reduction. For a respiratory mask with a 99.99% reduction, approx. 14 mj / cm^2 is needed and would suffice.
The reusability feature is derived from LEDs. The LEDs filter the air through the UVC light. The LEDs in use have a lifetime of 1 year if used continuously but can lat up to 5 years otherwise, which will often be the case. Additionally, the central part of the mask is made using silicon which boasts of strong durability and reliability. The LED tubes are easily replaceable in case of damage or harm. These abilities make the mask washable, reusable, and extremely durable.
Challenges I ran into
When we started out the project, we did not have a clear direction in mind. All the team was looking for ways to help the health care workers in the most optimal way possible. While researching the most commonly faced challenges during the COVID-19 global pandemic by the health care workers was that of sub-par protection provided by the currently used face masks by the health care industry.
The first obstacle was to figure out how to beat the current stats and build a solution that combats and addresses a variety of problems at once. We started by understanding the problems in the current mask that puts the health workers at risk this includes exposure to viruses and bacteria, build up from sweat, inability to communicate with disabled, exposure to the harmful environment, and easy penetration of dust particles in breathing space.
Once we had identified all the key areas where the current surgical mask and N95 lack, our next challenge was to pick out the best of the technologies to find the optimal solution to each. And so we did by including materials such as silicon which make the mask extremely durable and reusable it's easy to cleanse thoroughly.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
Epsylon mask team is proud of the current outcome, even in the initial stages, the mask has a minimal limitation which we are soon looking towards fixing. We are proud that the mask is able to accomplish and check off multiple pain-points of the health workers at once.
Additionally, after spending time researching for hours and days, we discovered the harrowing truth of the current situation of the health care industry. We found out that the real number of deaths of the health line workers is being hidden in the media and the families are heavily impacted as well.
To think of it, it's just a mask but it has the power of ensuring psychological balance and relieving the health care workers of the distress of making a decision of whether to attend to a patient or not. Epsilon has the capability to provide nurses and health care workers with confidence that they are safe and providing that safety net to our heroes has been the biggest accomplishment of this project.
What I learned
Throughout this project, there has been a large variety of learning for the entire team. The learning ranges from larger respect, love, and understanding for the health care workers and other front line workers during these tough times and uncertain times.
The use of a variety of hardware technologies has helped us gain an in-depth understanding of UVC light on the human body and we optimized the product to ensure 100% that the UVC light is unable to trespass through the specialized materials of the tubes. Additionally, silicon although often just a replacement of plastic has been used as a key feature, this taught us the large variety of applications of this simple material it single-handedly made our product more durable, reliable, reusable, and more inclusive. Consequently, the team learned the importance of inclusivity in this situation as it often looked over and easily ignored, hence making sure that the health-focused product enables lip reading to ensure the safety of all of human-kind.
This has also been a huge business lesson for the team as designing, creating, and understanding the product not only took scientific and technological knowledge but it also required understanding the market, the market size, the target audience, unique selling point, competitive analysis, to name a few. Researching all of the above helped us gain insight into importance of our solution and gaining a more in-depth understanding of the targetted problem
What's next for Epsylon Mask
Epsylon Mask is more than just a product, it is a gesture of mutual reciprocity. As the tag line reads "Protecting Those Who Protect Us", this face mask of the future is aiming at helping the heroes of modern-day just as much as they have helped mankind through their tireless services. In the current stage of the product, it has a protection rate of 99% whereas, through research and in-depth knowledge of the technology, the team knows that it is very much possible to raise the number further to 99.99 and that is possible through scaling and high-quality part production.
Finally, Epsylon Mask is not only protective toward the coronavirus but it is built to protect against any influenza virus, hence we further want to explore the possible usages and markets for the product beyond the current target.