Development of Custom and One-Size-Fits-All Masks for COVID‑19 Personal Protection
The overarching objective of this NSERC Alliance COVID‑19 project in partnership with the Alberta Centre for Advanced MNT Products (ACAMP) is to produce sustainable respirator options with improved usability for Canadian frontline health care workers and general public. With current disposable options resulting in supply shortages and causing skin trauma on many health care workers through improper fit, research towards providing reusable options with improved usability is critical. We will develop custom and one-size-fits-all approaches for generating mask geometry and investigate the advantages and limitations of both approaches. Our first objective of the project will be to develop in vitro and in vivo laboratory methods to quantitatively evaluate respirator performance. In vitro methods will utilize plastic face models instrumented with load cells to measure force and filtration level, allowing for correlation of filtration and force exerted on simulated faces. In vivo tests will then involve human volunteers using similar filtration measurements alongside perceived personal comfort to provide further insight into mask performance including the mask/tissue interface. We will then utilize these developed lab methods to investigate the performance of custom and one-size-fits-all masks to drive further improvement. Despite having an additive manufacturing route for producing custom medical grade silicone mask seals, we have yet to tune production variables (e.g. chemical composition) to optimize performance in application. When considering one-size-fits-all masks, we will aim to optimize mask geometry to increase comfort in use. Our comparisons between custom and one-size-fits-all approaches will provide valuable insight to understand the advantages and limitations of both approaches to better identify practical usage options (e.g. wearing a mask to get groceries vs. a 12-hour hospital shift). The reusable N95 respirator options to be developed through this project will improve working conditions for Canadian frontline health care workers during the COVID‑19 pandemic and provide more sustainable options for the general public to reduce viral transmission.