The COVID-19 with its effect on the global populace had a lot of people the adorning facemasks to protect them from the disease transmission but then they had no option as many of the masks appear to give discomfort, especially during exercise.
This prompted the researchers in American Chemical Society (ACS), Nano to develop a dynamic respirator that modulates its pore size to respond to condition change like exercise, air pollution levels, giving wearer the opportunity to breathe easier even when filtration high levels are not required.
Aside from protecting against the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Face masks can also be worn by people with respiratory problems in a bid to filter out pollutants that are deemed harmful. But in some cases, high level of filtration may not suffice and won’t be needed, in cases where air pollution levels are low, or when one exercise in the public alone, a presumed COVID-19 low risk activity. The sad reality is that majority of currently available masks cannot adjust to changing conditions.
With long time use of face mask, the trapped, exhaled breath has the ability to bring out heat sensation, humidity, bad breadth, and general discomfort, due to the fact that more breath will be exhaled during exercise. The research team made up of Seung Hwan Ko and others proceeded to make a respirator that would adjust automatically its filtration characteristics in response to change in conditions.
The team went ahead to develop a dynamic air filter with micropores that when the filter is stretched, expands, letting more air pass through. With only a 6 percent loss in filtration efficiency, a significant increase in the filter breathability, made up of electrospun nanofibers was achieved.
The scientists proceeded to place around the filter a stretcher connected to a lightweight, portable device that contains a sensor, air pump, and a microcontroller chip.
The device then liaise wirelessly with an artificial intelligence adorned external computer that reacts to particular matter in the air , together with the changes in the respiratory patterns of the wearer during the period of exercise. Two of the filters, placed on each side of a face mask were tested on human volunteers with the stretcher correctly generating a smaller increase in pore size when a volunteer exercises in a polluted atmosphere than when it was done in a clean atmosphere.
According to the researchers, one of the notable features of the new method is that the Artificial Intelligence software allows the respirator to adapt to the unique respiratory characteristics of each individual, helping to develop a personalized face mask.
The researchers further added that the stretcher could later be redesigned to have a pump-free mechanism that allows the system to be smaller, lighter and less cumbersome.
Reference: “Dynamic Pore Modulation of Stretchable Electrospun Nanofiber Filter for Adaptive Machine Learned Respiratory Protection” 29 September 2021, ACS Nano.