Designing Efficient Face Masks

COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges to our society. In the past months, we have realized the importance of relying on safe and reliable personal protective equipment for both the re-opening of our economy and the protection of our society.  Face masks have become an essential accessory in our lives. The increasing demand, combined with a shortage of this protective gear, have pushed individuals and industries to look at alternatives, including artisan reusable masks and other equipment.

The available scientific evidence on the filtration performance and breathability of improvised materials used in artisan masks is limited, sometimes contradictory or have been designed without giving consideration to the particularities of the novel COVID-19 virus.

This project is funded by the Mitacs Accelerate program to allow the interns (Ph.D. student Nathalie Duponsel and MFA student Ryth Kesselring) to collaborate with IRSST and in a multidisciplinary environment to create face mask prototypes and evaluate their efficiency (particle penetration) and pressure drop (breathability).  We are investigating two intersecting streams: (1) Mask Forms (including cloth masks, and 3D-printed mask devices), and (2) Filtration Materials.

This project builds on a unique collaboration between Concordia University’s Filtration Aerosol Laboratory (Ali Bahloul) and the Milieux Institute for Art, Culture and Technology (Barbara Layne and Ann-Louise Davidson) and the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST), offering world-class facilities and unique equipment to perform the pioneering research demanded by this project.

The findings of this project will help in the fight against COVID-19 by providing insight and guidance to industry and community to 1) design and choose the most breathable materials to make face masks and 2) design face masks that reduce leakage, improve comfort. This is done through studying the effect of design on leakage using a mannequin head and the effect of the material and sewing on filtration and breathability. Aside from providing our results to industry, we aim to mobilize knowledge to the public at large to help make better face masks at home.