Developing a novel filter material for protective gears for health care (COVID-19) from modified BCTMP (Bleached Chemi-Thermo-Mechanical Pulp)
The corona virus disease pandemic (COVID-19) has demonstrated the acute shortage of medical-grade personal protective equipment (PPE) for everyone to avoid the spread, in particular, for health care workers on the frontline from getting infected with the virus. The use of PPE is a must to avoid infection and spread of pandemic from airborne liquid droplets and particles carrying bacteria or viruses. A particular standard for these protective gears such as masks are essential for healthcare providers according to the World Health Organization guideline. Many airlines, grocery stores now mandatorily require customers to wear masks to ensure safety and curb the spread of COVID-19.
Medical masks help block large-particle droplets, sprays from sneezes and coughing containing germs/viruses. A surgical mask may block large-particle droplets; however, its ability to capture sub-micron particles is limited. Therefore, it may not provide complete protection from germs and other contaminants. The N95 respirator and surgical masks are used to protect the wearer from airborne particles and liquid droplets. It blocks at least 95 % of 0.3 micron particles. Surgical masks are made from different filter materials, which affect how easily one can breathe through and its ability to protect from contaminants. The material used to manufacture surgical face masks are polypropylene using spunbond technology and non-woven sheet made using meltblown technology. These process technologies are time-consuming and cumbersome to set-up. Thus, a search for an alternative material is very important.
Miller Western Forest Products (MWFP), the industry partner for the project, produces paper pulp using using chemicals, thermal and mechanical process (BCTMP).The main objective of this collaborative research proposal with MWFP is to assess and modify the properties of BCTMP and from there to develop a novel composite material to meet the quality required to manufacture protective coverings for face and related health care products.