Engineers have developed a prototype for a reusable, environmentally friendly biofilter to serve as a filtering, facepiece respirator.
At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, West Virginia was facing a personal protective equipment shortage throughout the state. Researchers Gloria Oporto, associate professor of wood science and technology, and Rakesh Gupta, chemical engineering professor, set out to produce a prototype for a reusable, environmentally-friendly biofilter to serve as a filtering, facepiece respirator.
These biofilters consisted of composite biomaterials that were antimicrobial and renewable. Oporto, Gupta and their team set out to evaluate the performance of bio-nanocomposites of polylactic acid (PLA) in combination with cellulose nanofibrils and coated with copper nanoparticles and improve the current N95 medical mask, design, fabrication process and material properties by incorporating a recyclable biofilter based on PLA and nanocellulosic materials.
Since the start of the team’s research, a 3D printed prototype mask using polylactic acid and wood-PLA filaments has been manufactured, shown in Figure 1. The team has also produced a 3D printed improved filtering device to test the biofilter. The biofilter will be tested for breathability, filtration efficacy and mask fit.
“This new knowledge will be generated across different fields such as wood science, health science, engineering, chemistry and biology,” Gupta said. “This work will continue promoting synergies among these disciplines and particularly in future, among students.”