For most of us, 2020 has been an unprecedented and difficult year due to the unexpected global pandemic that has spread around the world. Mentally, it can be difficult to conceptualize what it means to be in a truly global pandemic and how the virus could spread globally. Usually, when we think of the word “global”, the first thing that comes to mind is telecommunications because it is through telecommunications that we perceive the world as global, because it allows us to connect with the rest. of the world simultaneously, via messaging and media. This simultaneous nature of telecommunications is what makes them “global”, because for something to be global, it has to propagate very quickly in space. In the same way that electromagnetic waves travel rapidly through space to enable telecommunications, the spread of the Corona virus is spread due to the rapid diffusion of viral particles in the air, thus making the Corona virus a worldwide phenomenon. Fortunately, scientists at Northwestern University have go up with a simple way to modify the mask so as to change the chemical composition of the exhaled droplets, thus helping to stop the spread of this virus. According to Jiaxing Huang, professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern University, the vulnerability of the virus lies in its structure: “viral structures are actually very delicate and ‘brittle’, if part of the virus is malfunctioning then it loses its function. ability to infect. “
It is invaluable this fragile nature of the virus that allowed researchers to come up with an idea that would reduce the spread of the virus by changing the composition of the droplets exhaled. As we know, the way to control the spread of the Corona virus is through various precautions such as social distancing and wearing a mask. However, one problem is that the Corona virus is airborne and is spread by diffusing viral particles into space, even from asymptomatic carriers or people who may not have symptoms of the Corona virus. “In an outbreak of infectious respiratory disease, controlling the source is most effective in preventing viral spread,” said Haiyue Huang, an author of the study. “After leaving the source, the respiratory droplets become more diffuse and more difficult to control. ”
To do this, they introduced a chemical layer in the mask, which would modify the mask layer with antiviral chemicals, thereby sanitizing the exhaled air of the mask wearer and controlling the exhaled droplets. After experimenting with several chemicals, the researchers selected two antiviral and non-volatile chemicals that would create a local environment that would react with the exhaled air and change the composition of the droplets. In addition, they ensured that these chemicals could not be vaporized and then inhaled by the wearer. By growing a thin layer of polymer on the mask, a favorable chemical environment has been created. By testing various materials, the researchers found that the droplets are indeed modified, with different results depending on the tissue. About 82% of the droplets were changed for tighter fabrics such as lint free wipes and about 28% for very loose fabrics such as medical gauzes. Thus, this method seemed promising for modifying and cleaning up the air droplets.
Another promising aspect of this research is that, just as the Corona virus is a global pandemic, researchers are also hoping that this effort would be global. “Our research has become open knowledge, and we will love to see more people join this effort to develop tools to strengthen public health responses,” said Huang.