MIT engineers design a reusable silicone rubber face mask

July 10, 2020

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Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women's Hospital have designed a silicone rubber face mask they believe is as effective as N95 masks but can be sterilized and used multiple times. According to MIT News:

The masks are based on the shape of the 3M 1860 style of N95 masks, the type normally used at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Most of the mask is made of silicone rubber, and there is also space for one or two N95 filters. Those filters are designed to be replaced after every use, while the rest of the mask can be sterilized and reused.

"With this design, the filters can be popped in and then thrown away after use, and you're throwing away a lot less material than an N95 mask," Wentworth says.

The researchers tested several different sterilization methods on the silicone masks, including running them through an autoclave (steam sterilizer), putting them in an oven, and soaking them in bleach and in isopropyl alcohol. They found that after sterilization, the silicone material was undamaged.

So basically the idea is instead of swapping out an entire N95 mask you just swap out the filters. I guess that technically qualifies as reusable, but it's sort of like saying my N95 mask is reusable because the straps come off and you just have to swap out the part that covers the nose and mouth. Just eyeballing it they're probably getting three replacements for every one N95 mask replacement based solely on the amount of filter material. Better than nothing I guess.

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