MIT Engineers Design New Face Mask That's as Effective as N95

MIT engineers have designed a new face mask that's as effective as an N95 mask, and it could be a major win for healthcare workers during the coronavirus pandemic. According to CNBC, researchers and engineers from MIT and Brigham and Women's Hospital created the new face mask, dubbed the "iMASC." This stands for "Injection Molded Autoclavable, Scalable, Conformable."

The iMASC is made of silicone and is reusable. It can be quickly and easily sterilized, and has two small air filters that do have to be replaced. Notably, the iMASC requires much less material to be made than a traditional N95 mask. Giovanni Traverso, an MIT assistant professor of mechanical engineering and a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, spoke about the iMASC in a press release and stated that the researchers "wanted to maximize the reusability of the system." I group of healthcare workers have since tested the iMASC and said that they felt that the masks fit well and did not have a negative impact on their ability to breathe while wearing it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommends "wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission." The organization continues: "CDC also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance."

Additionally, it is stated that the cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. "Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance," they stated. The CDC also suggests face masks "should be routinely washed depending on the frequency of use." They also state that "a washing machine should suffice in properly washing a face covering." The CDC adds, "Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth when removing their face covering and wash hands immediately after removing."