The Great Mask
Yi Ran XU, Jason Chen
St George's School
Floor Location : M 064 V

As industrial processes become more prominent in urban areas, air pollution develops as an increasingly discernable problem throughout the world. Particulate matter, a mixture of solid and liquid droplets floating in the air, can easily penetrate and enter the human system and cause detrimental health effects over prolonged time. The particulate matters that are less than 10 micrometers in diameter are so small that they can bypass the ciliated mucous membrane in the respiratory tract and enter the lungs. Even though the particles themselves are not harmful to humans, they often carry chemicals or heavy metals with them that can cause detrimental health effects. Although British Columbia is often acknowledged for its healthy and pristine environment, frequent forest fires in the summer have seriously threatened the air quality in British Columbia. While there are potent dust masks that are designed to protect people from these dangerous particles, most of them are very expensive and often hard to find. To better protect the people in British Columbia from the potential health hazards of particulate matter, this project aims to create a mask that is efficient, inexpensive and accessible to the general population. For this project, graphene, a single atom layer of covalently bonded carbon serve as the filter of novel facemasks. The graphene fiber can have more contact with the particulate matter than the standard anti-dust masks because of its large surface area, making the graphene mask more efficient in filtering and absorbing the particulate matter. The graphene that is used in the new mask is prepared from graphite using the Hummers method, which can produce a large amount of single layer graphene with relatively low costs. Southwood fibre masks containing different percentages (1%, 2%, 4%) of the resulting graphene are tested for efficiency using a particle collector system. Each of the masks was placed to cover the vent of the particle collector system for 240 minutes, and image of the each mask after filtration was taken using a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) to analyze the interaction between graphene and particulate matter. The most efficient mask was determined by the decrease of particulate matter in the atmosphere and the particulate matter collected in the particle collector. The result shows that the 4% graphene mask was the most effective at filtering out particulate pollution. Observations of the images suggest that particulate matters, which appear as the white powder-like substances on the fiber strands under the Scanning Electron Microscope, are adsorbed on the surface of graphite fiber. The experiment confirms that graphene masks are effective in eliminating and absorbing particulate matters from the atmosphere, protecting people from air pollution.