IIT Mandi Develops Masks from Plastic Bottles
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Mandi say that they have developed a new technology to make highly efficient masks from waste PET bottles. They claim that these masks are much more breathable than commercially available masks, and can be washed and reused up to 30 times.
IIT Mandi has also filed a patent for the waste plastic bottle-derived filter membrane technology, based on electrospinning. The waste plastic bottles are shredded, and the pieces dissolved using a combination of solvents and extruded nanofibres from the solution.
According to Sumit Sinha Ray, an assistant professor with IIT Mandi, the team used waste plastic bottles to develop a single thin layer of nano-non-woven membrane that is as efficient as an N95 respirator mask or a medical mask.
“The first concern that comes to mind when we hear something is made of plastic is whether it is safe to use. These nanofibres meet the safety requirements of the user by excluding the bacteria and infectious components. The breathability in the developed masks is better than the commercially available masks.
“At the laboratory scale, the material cost for the mask was around ₹25 per piece. However, during the commercial manufacturing stage, its cost will be nearly halved. The mask can be washed and reused up to 30 times,” he said.
“Nanofibres can do wonders for masks. Airborne particulate and pollutant removal efficiency and breathability are the two main criteria for efficient masks. Commercially available melt-blown fabric-based masks can be efficient at a cost of high breathing resistance, whereas generic three-ply surgical masks are breathable but have meagre efficiency.
“Nanofibres based masks can filter out small particles effectively despite being comfortably breathable”, he explained.
The team said that the masks will only require standard hygiene measures for disposal.
Ashish Kakoria, a research scholar at IIT Mandi said that the ultrafine fibres allow less resistance in airflow due to a phenomenon called ‘slip flow’. ‘Slip flow’ boosts breathability.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, masks are now being widely used to avoid spreading the infection.
India is now the fifth-largest COVID-19 affected country in the world, behind the USA, Brazil, Russia and the UK.