NC State researchers get CDC funding to improve face masks

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Last year, researchers at NC State started working to wrangle the wild west of face coverings.

Assistant professor in the Wilson College of Textiles, Bryan Ormond, started studying mask efficiency taking into account how well they blocked particles, breathability, and fit. To assess all of this, his team programmed an animatronic head and placed different masks on it. Mimicking everyday movement, the programmed head breathes in and out while moving its jaw and nodding its head.

Ormond and his team have now received a $500,000 grant from the CDC to develop a test method to determine how well cloth face coverings, surgical masks and respirators like N-95 masks work.

“A lot of people ask, ‘Do masks work?’ And you really have to define what you mean by work,” said Ormond.

The team will be getting a new animatronic head that allows them to control the amount of air going in and out at different rates to simulate various activities. Ormond said the university has simulation chambers to test varying levels of ventilation or distancing.

“The project is really focused on developing test methodology for how we’re going to evaluate face coverings better,” said Ormond.

The team is looking to understand how to protect particles from entering the mask and how to block them from entering. NC State even has a simulation chamber to assess masking effectiveness indoors given different levels of ventilation and distancing. Ormond says results could then be available for want to make test methods available for manufacturers and end-users.

“It’s much bigger than just testing face coverings to start with. It gives us a really good platform to do a lot more further research,” Ormond said.

While there are masking mandates in place for many areas now, those mandates could be gone before the 18-month research project is completed. Even so, Ormond said the new testing method they develop could help with non-COVID-19 issues.

“With air pollution in certain areas of the world, with the wildfires on the west coast, that’s all air pollution and particles. These are things people can wear on a daily basis even after the pandemic,” he said.

Previous work by the NC State team was helpful in developing a standard for mask manufacturers to follow. The CDC has a list of more than a dozen specific face coverings that meet standards for acceptable performance.

ManufacturerProduct Name
or Model
Single Use/
Reusable
Particulate Filtration
Efficiency(%)
3M
Contact: Linda Eichinger
Advanced Filtering Face
Mask AFFM
Single99% – Level 2
Aries
Contact: Jane Foreman
Aries Barrier Face CoveringSingle83% – Level 2
Impulse Fashion, Inc.
Contact: Donald Roberts
Hope MaskReusable22% – Level 1
Buckeye Mask Company
Contact: Carla Macklin
PFM-153081Reusable24% – Level 1
Frëtt Solutions/Etrëma
Contact: Michelle Secours
ëTECH2Reusable82% – Level 2
Frëtt Solutions/Etrëma
Contact: Michelle Secours
ëPROReusable72% – Level 2
Frëtt Solutions/Etrëma
Contact: Michelle Secours
ëAIRReusable55% – Level 2
Frëtt Solutions/Etrëma
Contact: Michelle Secours
ë1.0Reusable57% – Level 2
Armbrust, Inc.
Contact: Landon Morales
Better Mask High
Filtration System
Single97% – Level 2
Puraka Masks
Contact: Customer Support
Puraka Essential Mask
ST-S/M/L-XXX-NV-Q1-
US/EU
Reusable27% – Level 1
National Safety Apparel
Contact: Rob Hines
MASK2C-44Reusable29% – Level 1
Pactics, Inc.
Contact: Deron Nanchuk
Pactics 2nd Generation
3-Layer Mask
Reusable20% – Level 1
Unicorn Breathing Mask
Contact: Kimberly Sky
Unicorn MaskReusable29% – Level 1
Grove Biomedical, LLC
Contact: Andrea Anderson
Canopy Hero ProReusable97% – Level 2

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