A team at Texas A&M University’s College of Engineering have developed a method to construct personal protection masks out of air conditioning filters in preparation for face mask supply shortages.
The do-it-yourself masks are designed to provide protection similar to that of an N-95 respirator, which blocks 95 percent of virus-sized airborne particles, unlike traditional surgical face masks.
Step by step instructions on how to create the masks can be found on Texas A&M’s engineering and medicine department website, along with a video showing how to construct them using HVAC air filters, staples and cords. Texas A&M researchers are also developing He also evaluates multiple different alternative protective masks, including different 3D printed masks.
According to the theory section on the team’s instruction guide, the HVAC filter was chosen because it is a commonly available material which is assessed through commonly accepted standards. HVAC filters are evaluated using the MERV rating system, which evaluates the air conditioner filters by the size of particles that block out. The masks use MERV ratings 13 through 16, which block out the smallest particles.
The team is currently qualitatively testing the DIY masks, which are not sterile and are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration or the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and not tested to their standards.
A&M researcher and biomedical engineering professor John Criscione emphasizes that the masks are only intended for worse-case scenarios in which overwhelmed hospitals run out of approved N95 respirators. The website for the masks also encourages the use of the approved, supply chain N95 respirator when available.
“If the gap between supply and demand continues to worsen, and particularly our emergency medical colleagues are forced to use DIY masks, we want them to have technical guidance as they make their choices of materials and construction,” Criscione said in a press release. “We see this as our selfless service responsibility to the general public, as Aggies, and we are here to help.”