‘…the cost of polymer nanofibre-based face mask filters will also be lowered dramatically.’
Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have developed a technique for mass production of high-performance polymer nanofibres. Publishing their work in the journal ACS Macro Letters, the researchers say that the technique has a nanofibre production rate 300 times higher per hour than the conventional electrospinning method. The fibre produced by this new route has the potential to be used in many applications including face mask filters for protection against coronavirus.
In looking to overcome the draw backs of the electrospinning nanofibre production method, which includes the requirement for high-voltage electric field and an electrically conductive target, the researchers turned to centrifugal spinning. This technique uses centrifugal force instead of a high-voltage, making it more cost effective and safer. The researchers say that the technique is also easily scalable as it only requires a rotating spinneret and a collector.
The researchers were able to integrate their mass produced nanofibre into mask filters. The masks incorporating the nanofibre were found to have comparable filtration performance with the approved facemasks currently available on the Korean market.
Lead author of the paper and PhD candidate Byeong Eun Kwak said; ‘When our system is scaled up from the lab to an industrial scale, the large-scale production of centrifugal multispun polymer nanofibres will be possible, and the cost of polymer nanofibre-based face mask filters will also be lowered dramatically.’
The researchers also pointed out that the electrostatic-based mask filters experienced a reduced collection efficiency of fine dust over time due to the moisture present while it is being worn. However, this was not the case with the nanofibre produced using the centrifuge. Nanofibres make good facemask filters because their mechanical interactions with aerosol particles give them a greater ability to capture more than 90% of harmful particles such as fine dust and virus containing droplets.