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Quick response research to COVID-19 – Development of face mask
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The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak which started in January 2020 and ultimately designated a pandemic status has led to an unprecedented global demand for disposable face masks.  The demand is based on the belief that wearing a face mask can protect the wearer from infection of the coronavirus, which has resulted in a chronic shortage of supply in markets worldwide, but especially in Hong Kong.  In order to provide an alternative to disposable face masks, an ad-hoc project on developing an effective antiviral, washable and reusable face mask is led by the Institute of Textiles and Clothing (ITC) with the following team members:

  • Chi-wai KAN, Professor of ITC, Faculty of Applied Science and Textiles (FAST),
  • Joanne Yiu-wan YIP, Associate Professor of ITC, FAST,
  • Chris Kwan-yu LO, Associate Professor of ITC, FAST,
  • Joseph Ka-fu YUNG, Associate Professor of Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology (ABCT), FAST,
  • Amber Jia-chi CHIOU, Assistant Professor of ABCT, FAST,
  • Hai GUO, Professor of Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), Faculty of Construction and Environment, and
  • Simon Ching LAM, School of Nursing (SN), Faculty of Health and Social Sciences.

 

1. Development of Face Mask

The project team proposed the fabrication of a 3-layer face mask with good filtration efficiency and antimicrobial capability, which they called PU30TM. The outer layer is cotton fabric with good antimicrobial capability and water repellency. The middle layer is non-woven fabric with good filtration efficiency. The inside layer is cotton fabric with good softness and water absorption ability.  The ITC team (Prof. KAN, Dr. YIP and Dr. LO) used different textiles to develop PU30TM. They examined the use of an antimicrobial coating technology to construct the outer layer of the face mask, which would impart an antimicrobial effect.  The ABCT team (Dr. YUNG and Dr. CHIOU) evaluated the antimicrobial effect of PU30TM and examined its durability.  The CEE and SN team (Prof. GUO and Dr. LAM) evaluated the filtration efficiency of the non-woven fabric to determine the best material for the middle layer that would meet international standards.  The properties and efficiencies of the face mask materials are listed in Table 1.   

 

Table 1. Face mask properties

Property

Result

Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE%; ASTM F2100 9.1/ASTM F2101)

>95%

Particulate Filtration Efficiency (PFE% ; ASTM F2100 9.3/ASTM F2299)

>95%

Viral Filtration Efficiency (VFE%; ASTM F2101)

>95%

Resistance to Penetration by Synthetic Blood (ASTM F2100 9.4/ASTM F1862)

No penetration

Flammability (ASTM F2100 9.5/16 CFR PART 1610)

Class 1

Antibacterial effect (AATCC 100) - Staphylococcus aureus

>99.9% inhibition

Antibacterial effect (AATCC 100) - Klebsiella pneumoniae

>99.9% inhibition

Water repellency (AATCC 22)

Completely dry

Notes: The antiviral properties of the outer layer of fabric to H1N1 and COVID-19 are tested in a local university with an in-house testing method. Inhibition of virus growth: >90%.

2. Know-how Generated – PU30TM

The research work on developing PU30TM has resulted in five patents filed in the US, China and Hong Kong to protect this intellectual property.  A trademark for the name of the mask, PU30TM, has also been filed in China and Hong Kong. An image of the mask is shown in Photo 1.

PU30TM

 

3. Social Impacts

After the development of PU30TM in February 2020, a production process was implemented in March and April 2020 in Hong Kong to produce a certain number of face masks which would be distributed to the needy.  The pilot activities were conducted from March to June 2020 as follows.

[1]        Social Service Centres under the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Welfare Council Limited recruited sewing workers who were unemployed due to COVID-19. They produced more than 2900 children’s face masks.

[2]        ITC of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University provided Work-Integrated-Education (WIE) opportunities to more than 33 undergraduate students in various fashion disciplines (i.e., technology, intimate apparel and activewear, fashion design, etc.) who applied their knowledge and skills to make, package and distribute PU30TM (see Photo 2). The tasks also allowed the students to apply their knowledge and skills to a real world context.

 

ITC student

 

[3]        In May 2020, a batch of PU30TM was distributed to the FAST staff and PolyU community for a trial wear.

 

[4]        In June 2020, more than 20,000 PU30TM for adults and children were donated to the needy and distributed through the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Welfare Council Limited (Photo 3).  In the spirit of caring and love, about 1000 PU30TM were specifically donated to the students and staff of the Sheng Kung Hui Holy Spirit Primary School on 19 June 2020.

 

Donations of PU30TM to needy children

 

4. Research Impact - from Face Mask to Other Personal Protective Equipment Research Work

The ad-hoc research process which was carried out to address the COVID-19 outbreak allowed the team members to acquire new knowledge not only in face masks but also in personal protective equipment.  The ITC team members further obtained funding support from the Public Sector Trial Scheme for the Prevention and Control of COVID-19 in Hong Kong (PSTS-COVID-19) administered by the Innovation and Technology Fund, HKSAR Government as Principal Investigator (PI) or Co-investigator (Co-I) for various studies and in different areas to advance personal protective equipment in a variety of application areas. The details of the funded projects are as follows.

 

[1]        Developing Antiviral and Durable Clothing for Healthcare Workers in Elderly Homes

- Prof. Chi-wai KAN as PI

- 1000 antiviral and durable garments will be provided to healthcare workers in elderly homes

[2]        Developing Healthcare Clothing with Antiviral and Antibacterial Capabilities

- Prof. Chi-wai KAN as PI

- 2000 healthcare worker garments with antiviral and antibacterial capabilities will be provided to healthcare workers who are working in hospitals under the Hospital Authority.

[3]        PU30TM – Antiviral, Washable and Reusable Face Mask

- Dr. Joanne Yiu-wan YIP as PI

- 40,000 antiviral, washable and reusable face masks will be provided to the needy through the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Welfare Council Limited.

[4]        3D Printed Antivirus Materials and Application in Public Facilities

- Dr. Chris Kwan-yu LO as PI

- Provides 3D printed handles with long lasting antimicrobial capability that will be installed on used-clothing recycling boxes around Hong Kong, and anticipated to be used by at least 20,000 individuals each month. This is a collaborative effort with the Home Affairs Department and Friends of the Earth (HK).

- Provides customized 3D printed covers for exhibitions / handles / lift buttons with long lasting antimicrobial capability at the Hong Kong Wetland Park, where over 90,000 local and international visitors will be protected.

In addition, the project team has participated in the 國家重點研發計劃項目administered by 中華人民共和國科學技術部

Project title: 輸入性疫情防控方案及裝備研製 - 安全防護用具(抗病毒口罩,防護服)

研究重點:側重研究抗病毒塗層技術應用於防護用具,從而使其具有抗病毒效果,同時不影響其透氣性及其他表面性狀。

Project team awards FAST Faculty Award 2019/2020 – Team Award in Research and Scholarly Activities.

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