Non-woven materials for cloth-based face masks inserts: relationship between material properties and sub-micron aerosol filtration†
Current guidance by leading public health agencies recommends wearing a 3-layer cloth-based face mask with a middle non-woven material insert to reduce the transmission of infectious respiratory viruses like SARS-CoV-2. In this work we explore the material characteristics for a range of readily available non-woven materials and their sub-micron particle filtration efficiency (PFE), with the aim of providing evidence-based guidelines for selecting appropriate materials as inserts in cloth-based masks. We observed a wide range of ideal PFE for the tested non-woven materials, with polypropylene, Swiffer and rayon/polyester blend providing the highest PFE and breathability. Our results suggest that materials comprising loose 3D fibrous webs (e.g. flannel, Swiffer and gauze) exhibited enhanced filtration efficiency compared to compressed counterparts. Common modifications to fabrics, such as water-resistant treatment and a sewn seam were also investigated. Overall, we demonstrate that adding an appropriate non-woven material as an insert filter can significantly improve the performance of cloth-based masks, and there exist suitable cellulose-based alternatives to polypropylene.
- This article is part of the themed collections: Recent Open Access Articles, Nanomaterials in air, Coronavirus articles - free to access collection, Environmental Science – coronavirus research and Best Papers 2021 - Environmental Science: Nano