A Secure Mask Seal: A Novel Solution for the Systematic Prevention of Particles Bypassing Masks
University Transition Program
Floor Location : S 127 H
In the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of face masks becomes increasingly apparent, and their effectiveness is critical. Other than not wearing a mask and improper mask usage, the largest danger is air leakage. Though masks are designed to filter the air that passes through them, masks have no way of filtering air that circumvents the mask and directly interacts with our circulatory systems. By inhaling possibly decontaminated air and spreading possibly contaminated air, people's safety becomes threatened and the containment of diseases becomes difficult. Previous mask seal designs are placed outside the mask, in contact with the exterior surface. Because that surface collects the contaminants, it can contaminate previous mask seal designs. Though safe when handled with extreme care and precision, the smallest mishandling can lead to infection. Worse, the chances of infection skyrocket because the seals are reused. To solve this issue from its roots, my design, placed between the interior surface of the mask and the face, provides a safe, secure, and comfortable seal to maximize mask effectiveness and decrease risks of contamination. Made with non-toxic hot glue as a sealant, paper as support, a mask nosepiece, and rubber bands, my cylindrical mask seal design equalizes the likelihood of leakage in different regions of the mask, reducing the overall likelihood of leakage. Furthermore, by increasing the distance between the face and the mask, the tension in the ear bands increase, sealing the contact points between the face, the mask seal, and the mask. Additionally, the rubber bands create extra tension to provide a more secure seal. To prevent high-pressure exhales, such as coughs and sneezes from overcoming the tension, a conical flap that sealed under pressure was installed inside the cylindrical mainframe, greatly reducing, if not eliminating the pressure of such exhales. It was hypothesized that if my seal was used, then it would be about as effective as other mask seal designs. Upon performing the positive and negative pressure user seal checks as outlined by CDC on a non-medical mask with no seal, a rubber band seal, and my seal (10 times each), it was found that with no seal, the mask leaked severely, whereas with both seals there was little or no leakage. More specifically, with no seal, the mask leaked 100% of the time, whereas, with a rubber band seal, the mask leaked 0% of the time, and with my seal, the mask leaked 0% of the time under the negative pressure test and 10% of the time under the positive pressure test (caused by hasty fitting), supporting the hypothesis. In the future, the design will be improved by using ABS as the mainframe and TPE as the sealant, adding antimicrobials such as silver nanoparticles, and adding another layer outside the cylinder for extra comfort and seal. In conclusion, because my mask seal design, like other designs, can effectively prevent harmful particles from bypassing masks, but my seal does not increase the risks of reinfection, my innovation can help make the world a safer place.