Development of Multi-Scale Fibers for Respiratory Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) against COVID-19
The pandemic outbreak of COVID‑19 and the shortages of medical devices especially for personal protective equipment (PPE), urged the Canadian industry for the self-sufficient manufacturing capacity of these vital products. High-performance filter materials for N95 respirator masks are crucial to prevent the transmission of diseases by filtering out contagious droplets. However, the continuous usage leads to the reduction in breathing capacity as filtered particles block the pores.
The University of Calgary team has formed a collaborative relationship with the industrial partner to fabricate nano and microscale fibers treated with intensive pulsed light (IPL) to create hollow fibers to improve the breathing capacity. Moreover, electrostatic charge is applied to the fibers to enhance filtration capacity of the material. To achieve multi-scale fibers, the melt-blowing method for microfibers and the electrospinning method for nanofibers are used. Polypropylene will be used under varying fiber production parameters such as temperature, blow pressure, distance to the substrate for the melt-blowing process, and the applied voltage and distance to the substrate for the electrospinning.
The novelty in the proposed innovation lies not only in the multi-scale fibers but also in the IPL and electrostatic charged treatments for the modification of fibers. Our previous studies showed that nanofibers have transformed under the specific condition of IPL, creating hollow and porous fibers. We expect that the modified fibers exhibit higher surface areas per volume to provide enhanced virus and bacteria collections as well as increased breathing capacity. This investigation will provide the Canadian produced enhanced respiratory masks, thereby increasing the readiness of PPE against the high demands at essential service providers as well as facilitate training of HQP with a variety of professional and technical skills.