Science

CUSAT find ways to recycle used medical masks as engineering products

V.Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on February 10, 2021

Plastic fibres separated from the used medical face masks could be blended with rubber to make polymer compounds and manufacture engineering products.

Disposal of face masks in these pandemic times has turned out to be a challenge for many. The researchers at Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) have developed an innovative method to recycle these used medical face masks as engineering products.

Prasanth Raghavan and P. M. Sabura Begum faculties at CUSAT, who jointly guided the research, said that the plastic fibres separated from the used medical face masks collected from various sources could be chopped and blended with rubber to make polymer blends with high tensile strength, impact strength and thermal properties. This can be used to manufacture high-performance engineering products such as car bumpers, dashboards, fighter jets and submarines as protective shielding to evade radar signals.

However, the face masks collected from the medical and municipal waste should be adequately disinfected before the studies for ensuring safety.

Deepthi Anna David and P.J.George Varghese, who took a key role in the research, pointed out that recycling would significantly reduce the cost of by-products and help contain the pollution and health hazards posed by careless discarding of used face masks. The blending of chopped medical face mask with rubber in the right manner and composition can tune the properties of polymer blends, which may find useful based on the requirements of products being created.

Deepthi has presented the research findings in the 33rd Kerala Science Congress and was honoured with the best paper award with ‘Scientific Social Responsibility’. The work was done in collaboration with the Department of Coatings and Polymer Materials, University of North Dakota, US.

The use of single-use plastics during the pandemic has led to a surge in the quantity of medical waste, worsening the environmental and public health crisis worldwide . At the same time, the crisis is also a strong driver of creativity and innovation, she added.

Scholars are researching further explorations to develop protective shielding for submarines and fighter jets using polymer blends made by combining the plastic fibres separated from face masks with rubber by the help of a compatibilizer.

Deepthi is currently pursuing her PhD under the joint guidance of Department of Applied Chemistry and Department of Polymer Science & Rubber Technology, while George is an alumnus of Department of Polymer Science and Rubber Technology and is currently pursuing his M.Tech at IIT, Patna.

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Published on February 10, 2021
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