Can Respirator Be Both Effective and Eco-Friendly?
Bratislava, 1 March 2022: Each five seconds a quarter million disposable respirators are used worldwide. This fact motivated a team of students calling itself "Comfy” to design biodegradable respirators which will not be a burden to the planet. Their design has recently won first place in Lifbee Academy, a platform for showcasing medical technology.
By: CU External Relations Office
"We wanted to find out what bothered people the most about the pandemic. We polled the public and our research showed that people were most concerned about the discomfort associated with wearing respirators, and their environmental unsustainability," says Michal Paulovič, a student at Comenius University Bratislava. By using eco-friendly materials, we could help slow down or prevent further pollution of the planet.
At present, most of the face-masks and respirators used in the world to protect our health are not degradable. The Ministry of the Environment of the Slovak Republic even recommends to place discarded face-masks and respirators in plastic bags.
"The original concept of our respirator is 100% degradable and thanks to biopolymers it is reusable. It will protect against COVID, but can be employed in other professions as well," explains Michal Paulovič, a student of medical biology at the Faculty of Natural Sciences of Comenius University.
The Comfy respirator uses a double barrier. The outer layer consists of natural biopolymers that immediately capture and immobilize the virus. The inner nanofiber portion of the biodegradable material then captures any escaped virus particles. This combination makes the respirator last longer and still offer sufficient protection. The details are a business secret since the project is only in its infancy.
The technical solution is based on science but its practicality and effectiveness still need to be verified. If the respirator proves to be practical, it could be useful beyond the pandemic. It will find use in medical laboratories and health-care facilities, as well as when handling dangerous samples.