COVID-19 : High-volume electrospinning of high-performance cellulose membranes required for N95-grade mask fabrication

Cloutier, Sylvain | $49,724

Quebec École de technologie supérieure 2020 NSERC Alliance COVID-19 Grant

In close collaboration with our industrial partners, we propose to exploit our understanding and control of polymer electrospinning, in order to produce high-performance polymer-based filter membranes deposited on medical-grade cellulose substrates. In turn, these high-performance filter membranes will be produced in high volumes by our industrial partners for the manufacturing of N95-grade protection masks essential in the context of the current pandemic. In the last decade, we have done extensive research in order to successfully produce complex micro- and nano-engineered polymer structures using carefully-controlled co-jetting and electrospinning with our own specially-design system.

Here, this extensive knowledge (and our apparatus) will be adapted and deployed within our industrial partner’s facilities, in order to rapidly reach manufacturing-scale production capabilities. We propose to use medical grade cellulose substrates (produced in Gatineau, Québec) in order to deposit a biocompatible electrospun fiber layer. In order to achieve N95-grade specifications (95% air transmission while blocking 0.3+ microns particles and droplets), the electrospun film will have to be fused into a denser self-sustaining membrane filter using one of four techniques readily accessible by our team. As such, the key research objective of this project will be to explore four (4) manufacturing-ready post-processing techniques, namely:

(1) infrared curing of the electrospun film using Adphos manufacturing equipment;

(2) industrial hot-press equipment;

(3) deposition on a pre-heated cellulose substrate using an industrial hot-bed carrier; and

(4) photonic (flash) curing using Novacentrix manufacturing equipment

in order to achieve a proper curing of the electrospun polymer film and obtain N95-grade membrane filters with good mechanical properties to be produced in high-volume and at relatively low costs.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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