The pandemic that outreached last year is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century that the world is facing. As SARS-CoV-2 continues its global spread,the most important public health measure, second only to social distancing, is the obligatory wearing of facial protection. Therefore, protection against SARS-CoV-2 and other airborne pathogens led to a boost in the design and productionof innovative solutions by industry stakeholders. Pioneering technologies like Nanoparticles, nanofibers, and others based on nanomaterials have been introduced in the mask production chains to enhance the performance and confer antiviral properties. Nanomaterials have the same size as viral particles and because of their huge surface to volume ratio, exhibit a physical, chemical, and biological property that is what makes it different from larger-sized materials.
Majority of masks available in the marketplace today work on a principle of filtering out the microbes and restricting them to enter our eyes, nose and mouth. However, these filtered microbes can stay on the outer exposed layer of the mask and can enter the body through our hands and other means. These issues have been addressed by the innovative Graphene based face masks which claim to filter the microbes and inactivate them on the mask surface rendering them ineffective.
Even though the properties of the Graphene based masks are astonishing, some organizations are worried about some specific types of Graphene masks in the market due to the health threat they can potentially cause. They believe that during inhalation, Graphene particles can leach from the mask and can make their way into the body by inhalation.
To start with, we should know that Graphene is not the problem here, the leaching of Graphene from the mask is. Any material and not just graphene if inhaled can pose a threat to the human body. Also, this leaching behaviour of masks is not universal for all Graphene based masks and it can be modified by using appropriate incorporation methodology of graphene in the mask. This has been precisely done in Graphene Face Masks. All the parameters like
performance, safety and leaching/life of mask have been considered during the development of these Masks.Nanomatrix materials graphene is made using natural flake graphite which is most pristine material for making graphene composite, unlike biomass graphene which is being made from other waste/scrap material. The pristine graphene is the best suitable graphene for making most sturdy composite as this graphene can be tuned and functionalize to its atomic level.
Performance: The mask is made of Graphene-Silver Composite and when tested against the COVID—19 virus, it showed a kill rate of >99% within 15s of contact and >3log reduction was observed for the H1N1 influenza virus. The same has been tested at various bacteria that have shown results of reduction of bacteria of upto99.9999% (7 Log Reduction) for both Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria.Further, a Bacterial Filtration Efficiency [BFE] of >99% has been observed,
Now, let us move our focus to the masks’ safety as well health related factors. The mask has been developed by keeping in mind about the health of the person who will be wearing it. When the Leaching Activity of the Antimicrobial Material in the Mask was tested, the mask showed “no zone of inhibition” i.e. no leaching activity was seen for both air and liquid medium which were used for replicating the wearing and washing phase of the membrane, respectively. This proves that no leaching of the graphene composite took place from the mask.
Various factors contribute to the strong cohesion between the composite and the mask fibres. Some of them are listed below:
1. In-situ synthesis: in the majority of the Graphene based masks available in the market, Graphene is deposited as a coating on top of the membrane which leads to leaching and reduced performance after a wash or two. However, in this mask, Graphene composite is incorporated in the inner membrane of the mask while it is being synthesized. This enables a strong attraction between the fibres and Graphene as compared to the coating route and hence leads to longer life and excellent safety.
2. Concentration of Graphene:In nanotechnology the right quantity for the desired function/performance is the key performance. An in excessive material is not the solution and may lead to agglomeration this agglomeration creates the problem like leaching. Also, the concentration of the anti-microbial material being used is well below the standard toxin concentration in the mask making it safe for use.Due to this small quantity of the material used, it is evenly distributed on the membrane fibres and also does not agglomerate. This further enhances the adhesion of the composite to the membrane fibres. Also, the concentration of the antimicrobial material being used is well below the standard toxin concentration in the mask making it safe for use.
3. Strategic Placement of Graphene Membrane: the graphene membrane has been placed strategically in between spun bond woven fabric which provides an extra layer of protection for the graphene based membrane.