COVID-19 Rapid Response Innovation Project


Creating an alternative material to produce protective face masks

The challenge

Meeting the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks approved for use by medical professionals, is a key challenge in the fight against COVID-19. Currently, the masks are made from polypropylene fabrics that filter micro-particles and virus-containing droplets. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of these masks, which are not reusable, and even developed countries are unable to produce enough to meet the demand.

The solution

The ViruShield project will address the shortage of masks for medical professionals by developing an alternative high-performance fabric that is cheap, easily available, washable and reusable, and can make masks that meet the EU standards for protection. The solution is a new textile that is based on widely available raw materials, like cotton, and can be produced in existing facilities, such as textile mills and clothing factories. The diverse expertise in the ViruShield team will allow design of the fabric to be informed by: (1) state-of-the art fibre and textile surface technology and practical knowledge of available textile machinery; (2) soft-matter physics, to find the optimal porous surface and fibres to bind COVID-19 in droplets and aerosols; and (3) technology to include durable self-disinfectant qualities on textile surfaces. The project will explore nonwoven production technologies, such as electrospinning, as well as a technique to mechanically roughen the surfaces of woven and knitted cotton and linen fabrics into dense, fleece-like structures. Production of new masks could be handled by garment producers, who currently have capacity because the ongoing economic crisis creates slack demand for their products.

Expected impact

The primary impact of this project will be to make it possible to achieve a rapid increase in the supply of PPE for medical professionals. Making the masks reusable will also help to alleviate the current shortage in supply. Because the goal is to make a product that can be mass-produced, the project should also provide work for garment producers, who are currently faced with a drastic drop in demand for their regular goods.

All Partners

EIT Health Partner

  • RWTH Aachen University

External partners

  • FU Berlin
  • Scientific Products GmbH
David Schmelzeisen
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