Problem: There has been growing concerns about the safety of front-line medical staff who come into regular contact with infected patients and performing invasive procedures on coronavirus patients. The lack of proper masks, gowns and eye gear is imperiling the ability of medical workers to fight the coronavirus — and putting their own lives at risk. Unfortunately, more than 10% of medical staff has been infected and health care workers who are exposed to it can also unwittingly transmit the virus. As an example, out of Spain’s 40,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, 5,400 — nearly 14 percent — are medical professionals , the 6,205 infected medics represent 8.3 per cent of Italy's total 74,376 cases . While the existing masks cannot protect healthcare workers and they run out of stock easily, the question is why still healthcare workers keep begging for medical supplies. “There’s absolutely no way to protect myself. Not only can I not protect myself, I can’t protect my patients.” said Dr. Faezah A. Bux, an anesthesiologist in central Kentucky, US who in recent days had to intubate several elderly patients in respiratory distress without the respirator masks and protective eye gear . The answer lies in the question, single-use masks are no longer the solution to protect healthcare workers and should be replaceable with our proposition; more durable mask with ultimate protection is possible.
What it does
Solution statement: As scientists and engineers of EPFL, we decided to design a mask that can be disinfected easily and having an ergonomic design which makes mask usable during long treatment times. With its specific sealing it ensures users no air particles can enter from sides of the masks. The mask with a bio mimicking surface has natural antibacterial effect which has a repelling effect on droplets and air-borne particles. Micromachining techniques can be easily implemented to produce air channels with shark skin effect on top of the glass substrate which is the main filter.
How we built it
Main body of the mask can be made of any material either UV or heat resistant. To make it compatible with the user`s face material can be elastically modified such as polymers or organic fibers. For an improved protection it may include sealing. Main filter in front made by laser assisted processing which can create nano-/micro-holes in the glass substrate which serves as a filter. With our current technology in Galatea laboratory in EPFL, we can create shark skin design which has an antibacterial effect, can further enhance the protection of the user. Glass substrate is chosen as a main component of the filter since it can cleaned easily in many ways in any hospital environment such as UV cleaning, thermal cleaning. Although the process itself may be expensive compared to single use masks, it can be used for long time, semi-permanent masks for medical staff.
Our previous video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-503Bb8gYk&t=11s