Guwahati: A team of researchers of the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IITG) has developed a coating to modify ordinary cloth or silk masks for better protection against aerosol-driven infections like COVID-19, the premier institute said.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, N95 masks or double masking protects people to a great extent from Coronavirus, but the drawback is that people undergo suffocation after wearing them for a long time.

Besides, the N95 masks are costly and thus unaffordable to a large section of the population.

“To address these challenges and to bring in a safer, economical, and comfortable alternative, the researchers of IIT-Guwahati have developed a coating material to modify the easily-available cloth mask into a hydrophobic mask to repel virus-laden droplets and avoid breathing difficulties even when worn for a longer period, a press release said.

Another advantage is that these masks are versatile and can be used with other additives such as antibacterial nanomaterial for additional protection against viruses, it said.

The research team was led by Prof Arun Chattopadhyay, Department of Chemistry and Centre for Nanotechnology, and Dr Partho S G Pattader, Department of Chemical Engineering, it added.

Highlighting the unique aspects of this research, Chattopadhyay said, “We have worked on the principle of repulsion of the aerosol by the modified cloth while allowing the air to flow through the mask. A simple coating of the hydrophobic molecule on the silk cloth worked well here.”

The breathability was tested by measuring the oxygen permeation through the mask with the help of an instrument called Gas Chromatography.

The penetration of oxygen reduces by only 22 per cent for the modified Eri silk mask compared to the natural Eri silk mask, whereas for N95 the reduction with respect to the natural Eri silk came out to be around 59 per cent.

“Hence, the modified silk mask is way more breathable than the N95 mask but with almost similar protection against aerosol-driven infections,” the release said.

Also read | IIT-G and IIM-Bangalore make breakthrough in pricing ‘Carbon Risk’

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