Masks made of cotton with natural silk or chiffon slow spread of COVID-19: Indian origin researcher

indica News Bureau-

To prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have revealed that a combination of cotton with natural silk or chiffon can effectively filter out aerosol particles, said research by ACS Nano.

According to the study SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes speak or breathes.

These droplets form in a wide range of sizes, but the tiniest ones, called aerosols, can easily slip through the openings between certain cloth fibers, leading some people to question whether cloth masks can actually help prevent disease.

The study further said that there is a need to evaluate filtration efficiencies as a function of aerosol particulate sizes in the 10 nm to 10 μm range, which is particularly relevant for respiratory virus transmission. The study says they have carried out these studies for several common fabrics including cotton, silk, chiffon, flannel, various synthetics, and their combinations. Although the filtration efficiencies for various fabrics when a single layer was used ranged from 5 to 80% and 5 to 95% for particle sizes of <300 nm and >300 nm, respectively, the efficiencies improved when multiple layers were used and when using a specific combination of different fabrics.

Therefore, Supratik Guha at the University of Chicago in the US, and colleagues wanted to study the ability of common fabrics, alone or in combination, to filter out aerosols similar in size to respiratory droplets.

They used an aerosol mixing chamber to produce particles ranging from 10 nanometres to 6 micrometers in diameter.

According to the study, a fan blew the aerosol across various cloth samples at an airflow rate corresponding to a person’s respiration at rest, and the research team measured the number and size of particles in the air before and after passing through the fabric.

The researchers found that one layer of a tightly woven cotton sheet combined with two layers of polyester-spandex chiffon — a sheer fabric often used in evening gowns — filtered out the most aerosol particles (80-99 percent, depending on particle size), with performance close to that of N95 mask material.

Substituting the chiffon with natural silk or flannel, or simply using a cotton quilt with cotton-polyester batting, produced similar results.

The researchers said that tightly woven fabrics, such as cotton, can act as a mechanical barrier to particles, whereas fabrics that hold a static charge, like certain types of chiffon and natural silk, serve as an electrostatic barrier. However, they cautioned that even a one per cent gap reduced the filtering efficiency of all masks by half or more, emphasizing the importance of a properly fitted mask.

“Our studies also imply that gaps can result in over a 60 percent decrease in the filtration efficiency, implying the need for future cloth mask design studies to take into account issues of “fit” and leakage, while allowing the exhaled air to vent efficiently,” the authors noted.


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