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Parachuru and Russo Research Alternatives to N95 Masks
In a study sponsored by the CDC, MSE faculty members Radhakrishnaiah Parachuru and Paul Russo, have developed and evaluated masks to help reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses. The goal was to create a durable, affordable, high performance, three-layer mask that would serve as an affordable alternative to N95 masks. After a year of research, they determined that multilayered masks containing structurally optimized and functionally enhanced woven, knitted and nonwoven fabrics in individual layers can serve as affordable protective masks. Controlled elasticity of the ear loops and the geometry and mechanical properties of the peripheral seams were found to be critical for optimal and durable fitness. Some of the mask fabrics incorporated permanent antibacterial and waterproof finishes in them. Commercial masks made from these fabrics using automated cutting and sewing equipment can be produced for less than $1 each. The optimally engineered fabric masks carry the potential to serve as alternatives to single use hospital grade masks used in healthcare settings. Further design optimization of cloth masks and their side-by-side performance evaluation with N95 type masks could pave the way to healthcare savings and better environmental compliance.