Studying a contagious new virus is dangerous and done in labs with the highest biosecurity ratings, which are relatively rare. To date, all studies during the pandemic on mask or filter efficiency have used other materials thought to mimic the size and behavior of coronavirus aerosols. The new study improved on this by testing both aerosolized saline solution and an aerosol that contained a coronavirus in the same family as the virus that causes COVID-19, but only infects mice.
Shen and George Washington University colleague Danmeng Shuai produced a nanofiber filter by sending a high electrical voltage through a drop of liquid polyvinylidene fluoride to spin threads about 300 nanometers in diameter — about 167 times thinner than a human hair. The process created pores only a couple of micrometers in diameter on the nanofiber’s surfaces, which helped them capture 99.9% of coronavirus aerosols.
The production technique, known as electrospinning, is cost effective and could be used to mass produce nanofiber filters for personal protective equipment and air filtration systems. Electrospinning also leaves the nanofibers with an electrostatic charge that enhances their ability to capture aerosols, and their high porosity makes it easier to breathe wearing electrospun nanofiber filters.
“Electrospinning can advance the design and fabrication of face masks and air filters,” said Shen. “Developing new masks and air filters by electrospinning is promising because of its high performance in filtration, economic feasibility, and scalability, and it can meet on-site needs of the masks and air filters.”
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction