C.S.U. lab develops innovative nano filter for face masks

Shredded paper wastes and trial tests of the film material.

Nanocellulose face mask filter from waste materials? Yes, that’s possible as proven by the team of Dr. Rey Capangpangan from Caraga State University (CSU).

The lack of effective face masks to address the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus disease motivated the team of Capangpangan to develop a nanocellulose filter sourced from waste materials to for face masks that are now very important for frontliners battling Covid-19, said a news release from Capangpangan’s team.

Cloth face masks are currently in demand owing to the shortage of standard face masks—surgical or N95—in the market. But they are not very effective against coronavirus. They cannot effectively filter droplets containing the virus because of the large pores in the material.

In response to this public concern, Capangpangan and his team developed a filter that can be inserted in the cloth face mask in order to efficiently filter out contaminants—the nanocellulose film which is sourced from waste materials.

The team embarked on the research on March 27 and developed the prototype at the Material Science and Polymer Chemistry Laboratory in CSU, a project funded by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technologies Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD).

The lab serves as a facility, not just for researchers who are into materials development, but also for local industries.

The team’s current work is on cellulose biopolymer, where they saw the potential in developing a filter material while integrating nanotechnology.

The team used paper wastes, acid, base and bleaching reagents to produce nanocrystals. These materials were integrated with nanocellulose film to increase the filtering capability of the product.

According to Capangpangan, the nanocellulose crystals can also be extracted from agricultural wastes, such as pineapple leaves and water hyacinth, the news release said.

The research is in collaboration with the College of Engineering and Geosciences and Caraga Fabrication Laboratory in CSU that developed the 3D printed face masks.

The lab also collaborated with Dr. Arnold Alguno from the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology for the nanocellulose extraction.

The nanocellulose filter costs around P15.00 per piece, while the 3D printed face mask costs P300 per piece. Costs can be reduced if the products are mass produced, the news release added.

The face mask can be reused, while the filter material can be sun dried before reusing. The team continues to modify and test the product for its longevity.

Results from the flame and wettability tests show that the nanocellulose filter performs well as much as the commercial face mask.

The team emphasized that the research project does not aim to replace the masks used by health and medical practitioners but to provide innovation to effectively reduce contamination using washable low cost nanocellulose films.

For now, the laboratory is in need of raw materials and reagents to continue its production. The team of researchers are appealing for further assistance to manufacture more face masks. Interested parties who want to help can contact DOST-Caraga or project leader, Dr. Capangpangan, at CSU, Butuan City.

Incidentally, Capangpangan is an active member of the National Research Council of the Philippines of the Department of Science and Technology.

Aliana Gene E. Sarmiento, S&T Promotions Unit

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