Biodegradable for Protective Masks
Node Smith, ND
The CSIC’s associated unit in Polymer Technology at the Universitat Jaume I, directed by Luis Cabedo from the Department of System Engineering and Design, is participating in a project led by the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), together with company Bioinicia S.L., a spin-off of the CSIC and the Textile Technology Institute (AITEX), to develop biodegradable antiviral filters for manufacturing protective masks.
Biodegradable antiviral filters for manufacturing protective masks
The project was approved by the CSIC’s Global Health platform and the Valencian Agency for Innovation (AVI) as an initiative to address the COVID-19 pandemic has been developed at IATA-CSIC by the research group led by scientist José María Lagarón.
It aims to solve the difficulty of access to certain filter materials and improve the prophylactic quality of masks, so that they can protect against the virus in a passive way, by preventing the entry of the virus in an active way, with the incorporation of viricides in the filters.
Developments achieved certified FFP3 levels of filtration
The developments carried out so far have achieved certified FFP3 levels of filtration, which indicates that out of every hundred viruses that attempt to pass through the filter, only one or less will potentially succeed.
José María Lagarón points out that “the studies developed in certified facilities show that we are already at values of 0.079 of model paraffin aerosol penetration percentage, which implies that it is very effective.
In addition, it should be remarked that these levels of filtration are very difficult to achieve in such thin multilayer materials with thicknesses of less than 300 microns.”
Another objective of the project is to manufacture this type of filter using biodegradable materials
Another objective of the project is to manufacture this type of filters using biodegradable materials, in order to keep the residues generated by the massive use of protection materials from becoming an environmental problem.
For this reason, very effective fungible filters that can be exchanged daily have already been obtained, thus avoiding the disposal of the full device.
The CSIC’s Associated Unit in Polymer Technology of the UJI will be in charge of studying the biodegradation levels of the developed materials, with the collaboration of the University Institute of Environmental and Marine Sciences (IMEDMAR) of the Catholic University of Valencia.
Normally, protective mask waste, which is more widely used in the health sector, is incinerated with other protective equipment and disposable medical material, but the coronavirus pandemic has led to this waste also being incorporated into the domestic environment.
It’s necessary to evaluate end of life of waste generated during product design to ensure its sustainability
This makes it necessary to evaluate the end of life of the waste generated during product design, in order to ensure its sustainability. By their nature, this waste should not be recycled and, given its chemical composition, it cannot be considered as biodegradable organic matter.
However, the masks developed in this project are made from materials that are not only biodegradable, but could also be composted in a normal composting cycle of organic matter.
The team made up of Luis Cabedo, José Gámez, Patricia Feijóo, Anna Marín and Estefanía Sánchez from the Universitat Jaume I will carry out a study of the biodegradability of the masks designed in accordance with current regulations.
To this end, they will develop a series of tests to verify that the product is industrially and domestically compostable and biodegradable on land and at sea with laboratory tests and also under real conditions.
On one hand, the work includes a chemical study of the materials, an analysis of the disintegration under composting conditions, a measure of the ultimate biodegradation (which does not create microplastics) and a final evaluation of the quality of the resulting compound.
Long-term, experimentally intensive tests will ensure that, once the mask is used, its residues can be treated as organic matter.
The masks in this project are mainly made of PHA
The masks in this project are mainly made of PHA and would therefore be biodegradable in the environment as well. In order to validate their biodegradability, the research staff from Castellón will carry out a study in the terrestrial and marine environment.
The laboratory tests will measure — both for the land and for the marine environment — the ultimate biodegradation of the components, ensuring that no microplastics are generated and that all the material is transformed into CO₂ and water.
They will also measure their biodegradation in the marine environment with the introduction of some prototypes in the facilities on the Mediterranean coast that the Catholic University of Valencia has in Calpe.
The team from the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology of the CSIC, which develops these biodegradable and viricidal materials for reusable, highly protective sanitary devices, has been very active since the beginning of the crisis together with company Bioinicia S.L., which has a GMP and ISO 13485 clean room and a production capacity of 10 MT per year to manufacture several million masks.
The company has already filed a patent application in co-ownership with CSIC and is manufacturing the first FFP2 and FFP3 type protection filters, which will be validated by the Textile Technology Institute (AITEX) based in Alcoy.
Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Humboldt, Saskatchewan and associate editor and continuing education director for NDNR. His mission is serving relationships that support the process of transformation, and that ultimately lead to healthier people, businesses and communities. His primary therapeutic tools include counselling, homeopathy, diet and the use of cold water combined with exercise. Node considers health to be a reflection of the relationships a person or a business has with themselves, with God and with those around them. In order to cure disease and to heal, these relationships must be specifically considered. Node has worked intimately with many groups and organizations within the naturopathic profession, and helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic Revitalization (ANR), which works to promote and facilitate experiential education in vitalism.