Design, characterization and manufacture of sustainable filtration masks from medical grade lignin and cellulose to combat COVID-19
The significant increase in the use of plastic-based personal protective equipment (PPE) since the start of the COVD-19 pandemic has raised alarming concerns over its concurrent negative environmental impact and has motivated the search for solutions that can offer protection against the virus, but at the same time provide reduced environmental footprint. Here, we propose to develop and test a novel filtration layer for medical masks using wood-based medical grade lignin and cellulose produced by the industrial partner organization, based in British Columbia, through a proprietary closed-loop process. We anticipate an improved filtration performance for the new hybrid cellulose-lignin layer, owing to its nanostructure formed via electrospinning process, along with the intrinsic antibacterial and antiviral properties of lignin. Upon the development of the optimal design for this sustainable bio-based layer, the team will assess the efficacy of the product for medical mask applications, which may then enter to the commercialization phase by the industrial partner.
The research goal will be accomplished through a multi-disciplinary team effort, including experts from Materials Science and Manufacturing, Mechanical Engineering and Design, and Microbiology. The project milestones will include: 1. Fabrication of cellulose nanofibre mats; 2. Fabrication of lignin nanofibre mats; 3. Fabrication of hybrid cellulose-lignin nanofibre mats; 4. Building an in-house filtration test setup; 5. Optimization of hybrid layer design for improved filtration; 6. Antiviral and Antibacterial characterization.