BY farah khalfe 2 MINUTE READ

What started as personal protective gear for healthcare workers, has now become somewhat an entire industry on its own – with demand far outweighing supply and new variations of it being invented constantly.

What started as personal protective gear for healthcare workers, has now become somewhat an entire industry on its own – with demand far outweighing supply and new variations of it being invented constantly.

So what exactly is an N95 mask? And what are some of the innovations that have come about since compulsory masking took hold of society last year?

N95 masks derived their name from the fact that they filter out 95% of airborne particles – and have been the gold standard of PPE during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, they are not without their complications. For starters, many people claim they find it hard to breathe while wearing a mask.

N95 masks are indeed hot and humid on the face. Besides, research has indicated that when wearing an N95 mask, we breathe in 5% – 20% less oxygen than normal unfiltered air, and higher proportions of the carbon dioxide we would normally exhale.

To combat this, researchers at Stanford University developed a device that makes the experience of wearing an N95 mask less stuffy (this is particularly important for nurses and doctors who usually have to wear them for hours at a time).

The leader of the project, John Xu, aimed to create a device that created its oxygen and then pumped the oxygen to an N95 mask to make it more comfortable for the wearer.

The team at Stanford developed a working prototype that does just this. The device is a waist-mounted machine that plugs into any standard N95 mask. The machine is filled with water, and the battery can be charged to turn water into oxygen, which then flows right into the N95 mask. At the same time, the second tube in the mask sucks away carbon dioxide. So in theory, someone wearing Xu’s invention will breathe in a mix of gasses that closely resembles normal air.

Xu envisions this invention to go for about US$300, however, production has been put on hold for now, as they the iron out a few details.

With new waves of the virus being predicted the world over and no foreseeable end to the pandemic in sight, there are sure to be new and improved inventions of the mask yet to come. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

________________________________________________________________________