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Stopping the Airborne Spread of COVID-19: Nanofiber Filter Captures Almost 100% of Coronavirus Aerosols

Left: A nanofiber filter that captures 99.9% of coronavirus aerosols; Proper: A extremely magnified picture of the polymer nanofibers. Credit score: Yun Shen

A filter constructed from polymer nanothreads blew three varieties of business masks out of the water by capturing 99.9% of coronavirus aerosols in an experiment.

“Our work is the first research to make use of coronavirus aerosols for evaluating filtration effectivity of face masks and air filters,” mentioned corresponding writer Yun Shen, a UC Riverside assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering. “Earlier research have used surrogates of saline resolution, polystyrene beads, and bacteriophages — a bunch of viruses that infect micro organism.”

The research, led by engineers at UC Riverside and The George Washington College, in contrast the effectiveness of surgical and cotton masks, a neck gaiter, and electrospun nanofiber membranes at eradicating coronavirus aerosols to stop airborne transmission. The cotton masks and neck gaiter solely eliminated about 45%-73% of the aerosols. The surgical masks did significantly better, eradicating 98% of coronavirus aerosols. However the nanofiber filter eliminated virtually all of the coronavirus aerosols.

The World Well being Group and Facilities for Illness Management have each acknowledged aerosols as a significant mechanism of COVID-19 virus transmission. Aerosols are tiny particles of water or different matter that may stay suspended in air for lengthy durations of time and are sufficiently small to penetrate the respiratory system. 

Individuals launch aerosols each time they breathe, cough, speak, shout, or sing. If they’re contaminated with COVID-19, these aerosols may also include the virus. Inhaling a adequate amount of coronavirus-laden aerosols could make folks sick. Efforts to curb aerosol unfold of COVID-19 deal with minimizing particular person publicity and decreasing the total amount of aerosols in an atmosphere by asking folks to put on masks and by enhancing indoor air flow and air filtration methods. 

Learning a contagious new virus is harmful and finished in labs with the highest biosecurity scores, that are comparatively uncommon. Thus far, all research throughout the pandemic on masks or filter effectivity have used different supplies thought to imitate the dimension and conduct of coronavirus aerosols. The brand new research improved on this by testing each aerosolized saline resolution and an aerosol that contained a coronavirus in the similar household as the virus that causes COVID-19, however solely infects mice. 

Shen and George Washington College colleague Danmeng Shuai produced a nanofiber filter by sending a excessive electrical voltage by way of a drop of liquid polyvinylidene fluoride to spin threads about 300 nanometers in diameter — about 167 occasions thinner than a human hair. The method created pores solely a pair of micrometers in diameter on the nanofiber’s surfaces, which helped them seize 99.9% of coronavirus aerosols. 

The manufacturing method, generally known as electrospinning, is value efficient and may very well be used to mass produce nanofiber filters for private protecting tools and air filtration methods. Electrospinning additionally leaves the nanofibers with an electrostatic cost that enhances their capability to seize aerosols, and their excessive porosity makes it simpler to breathe carrying electrospun nanofiber filters.

“Electrospinning can advance the design and fabrication of face masks and air filters,” mentioned Shen. “Creating new masks and air filters by electrospinning is promising as a result of of its excessive efficiency in filtration, financial feasibility, and scalability, and it will probably meet on-site wants of the masks and air filters.”

Reference: “Improvement of electrospun nanofibrous filters for controlling coronavirus aerosols” by Hongchen Shen, Zhe Zhou, Haihuan Wang, Mengyang Zhang, Minghao Han, David P. Durkin, Danmeng Shuai and Yun Shen, 17 Might 2021, Environmental Science & Know-how Letters.

The paper is printed in Environmental Science & Know-how Letters. Different authors embody Hongchen Shen, Zhe Zhou, Haihuan Wang, Mengyang Zhang, Minghao Han, and David P. Durkin. This work is funded by the Nationwide Science Basis. 

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