The best way to combat coronavirus is to wear masks, maintain hygiene and social distancing. We all got to know this in these long periods of the pandemic. But these tight-fitting devices can also make it very hard to breathe after a couple of hours. For instance, N95 respirators are quite good at blocking airborne particles, but it can block the amount of oxygen from entering the mask freely. There are concerns with the N95 respirators, too.

During the pandemic, the valveless N95 became a stapled personal safety system for healthcare professionals. N95 masks with exhalation valves became a possible threat.

Now, with a new device to pump out pure O2 to the wearer, some Stanford University researchers are addressing this problem. Let's let us know about N95 respirators and the issues with the masks with the valve before diving into the matter directly.

What is an N95 respirator mask?

An N95 respirator mask is a safe respiratory system for airborne particles with high filtration efficiency. Such masks are designed to achieve a very similar facial fit in order to provide the appropriate air seal for the wearer. N95 masks often come without respiratory valves and those are not listed as problematic in the government advisory. The 95 in N95 represents 95%. 95 percent of the small particulate matter can be filtered out by an N95 mask.

Face Mask with Exhalation valve

Researchers, including those of Indian descent, have found that masks with exhalation valves and shields might not be as effective as normal masks to prevent the spread of droplets, and may potentially hamper mitigation efforts of COVID-19. In order to assess how face shields and masks with valves work in preventing the spread of aerosol-sized droplets, scientists from Florida Atlantic University in the US used qualitative visualizations. They found that the widespread use of these alternatives to traditional masks by the public may potentially have a detrimental impact on mitigation efforts.

The researchers have pointed out that face shields to some degree hinder the exhaled body fluid forward motion, and masks with exhalation valves do the same to an even smaller extent.

When it is released into the air, however, according to light ambient disturbances, the aerosol-sized droplets are widely dispersed.

Other types of masks, such as some cloth-based masks that are commercially available, often come with valves on either side of the facemask, much like the N-95-rated face mask used in this review.

The N95 mask with exhalation valve used in this research had a little possibility to let droplets escape from the space between the top edge of the mask and the nose bridge.

The exhalation port greatly decreased the mask's usefulness as a means of source control, as a large number of droplets moved unfiltered and unhindered through the pipe.

How do valved masks instigate coronavirus?

With or without respirators, N95 masks arrive. Evidence indicates that although the valve mask protects a person from infection, it may put others at risk. This is how:

Any N95 mask that has an elevated plastic gasket stitched into its fiber is typically used when you breathe in to filter the air, but the air is not filtered again when you breathe out and it goes out as is. Hence, by releasing the unfiltered exhaled air into the immediate environment, an asymptomatic coronavirus carrier may infect others.

This occurs because the air you have exhaled is not filtered by these valves and the expelled air is forced out of the valve rapidly, which is essentially a one-way valve.

The New Invention

Stanford researchers claim that people who need to wear N95 masks for longer periods either feel overheated or almost unable to breathe because of the mask’s tight-fitting and occupancy of such a wide area of the face. A new form of the mask has been developed by John Xu and the team that will help you battle COVID-19 and also support people to breathe freely.

He said they use an electrochemical method to obtain electricity from water to create oxygen. And then there is also a method involving moving air several times through a membrane to concentrate oxygen on one side, he describes. Xu is researching both methods to create a small box that can be worn at the waist and that, through a hose, feeds pure, clean oxygen into a regular N95 mask.

The oxygen flowing into the mask, through a different connexion, would also force out used air. Perhaps more than the secondary supply of oxygen, it is very important for both comfort and temperature control for the user to only flush out carbon dioxide and humidity from those masks. Not only does eliminating humidity make it easier for an individual to wear the N95, but it also reduces moisture damage, she says. Prolonging the life of personal protective equipment (PPE) could help it stay longer in use at a time when there is a shortage of masks.

The researchers, in partnership with Stanford Hospital, have built a prototype and intend to test it. The system should be relatively easy to produce once a successful model has been tested because the oxygen-producing unit and attachments depend on existing materials. They are trying to use plastics for everyday use, which can be manufactured in vast quantities. The engineering parts that are currently being used are mass-manufactured parts that are readily available to individuals across the world.

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