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Nanometer-Thick Superhydrophobic Coating Renders Cloth Mask Potentially Effective against Aerosol-Driven Infections

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posted on 2021-10-13, 17:46 authored by Prerona Gogoi, Sunil Kumar Singh, Ankur Pandey, Arun Chattopadhyay, Partho Sarathi Gooh Pattader
The advent of COVID-19 pandemic has made it necessary to wear masks across populations. While the N95 mask offers great performance against airborne infections, its multilayered sealed design makes it difficult to breathe for a longer duration of use. The option of using highly breathable cloth or silk masks especially for a large populace is fraught with the danger of infection. As a normal cloth or silk mask absorbs airborne liquid, it can be a source of plausible infection. We demonstrate the chemical modification of one such mask, Eri silk, to make it hydrophobic (contact angle of water is 143.7°), which reduces the liquid absorption capacity without reducing the breathability of the mask significantly. The breathability reduces only 22% for hydrophobic Eri silk compared to the pristine Eri silk, whereas N95 shows a 59% reduction of breathability. The modified hydrophobic silk can repel the incoming aqueous liquid droplets without wetting the surface. The results indicate that a multilayered modified silk mask to make it hydrophobic can be an affordable and breathable alternative to the N95 mask.