Disposal of used facemasks is a major area of concern across the globe as not many dispose them of properly. The fact that many of these facemasks are non-biodegradable further adds to concerns.

Now, scientists at International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), a research and development centre under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB), in association with Bengaluru-based Resil Chemicals, have developed a self-disinfecting biodegradable facemask.

This ‘Copper-based Nanoparticle-coated Antiviral Face Mask’ has been developed under the DST-sponsored nano-mission project to fight against the Covid pandemic.

In an e-mail reply to BusinessLine, Dr Tata Narasinga Rao, Scientist from ARCI, said the team of scientists has been working on this DST-sponsored project for more than a year.

ARCI developed copper-based nanoparticles of around 20 nanometres by a ‘Flame Spray Pyrolysis’ (FSP) processing facility. FSP process involves conversion of solution precursors into nano-powders by high temperature pyrolytic decomposition.

Stable nano-particle suspension were obtained by optimising the solid loading and pH. A uniform layer of this nano-coating on the cotton fabric with good adhesion was achieved using a suitable binder. The coated fabric exhibited an efficacy of more than 99.9 per cent against bacteria.

CSIR-CCMB tested the efficacy of this fabric against SARS-CoV-2 and reported 99.9 per cent disinfection, as evident from the standard results.

Stating that they got the masks made through the company partner using ARCI technology, Rao said the masks are ready for user trials for a while.

Prototype masks having different designs such as single layer or triple layers with nano-particle coated fabric as outer layer have been demonstrated. A single layer mask is especially useful as a protective antiviral outer mask over a regular mask.

Commercial production

According to Press Information Bureau, the Bengaluru-based Resil Chemicals is now producing such double layer masks on large scale.

On the commercial aspects and affordability of the masks made out of this technology, Rao said, “The commercial production depends on who will take our technology and produce. The cost of mask will depend on the scale of production. But it will be affordable.”

Dr Venugopal D, a Mangaluru-based consultant physician and diabetologist, told BusinessLine that this mask is of great use for healthcare professionals and the general public in protecting against corona and other viral infections, and reducing the transmission among the communities.

“I only wish this product is affordable to the common man,” Dr Venugopal said.

Rao said that the technology has been tested on some bacteria and Covid-19 and H1N1 virus, adding, “It should work for a range of virus variants but I can not confirm as we have not tested for variants other than those I mentioned.”