Caraga school lab creates face mask filter from waste materials

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The problem of the lack of effective face masks motivated a team from the Caraga State University (CSU) to develop a “nanocellulose” filter for face masks that is sourced from waste materials.

The team led by Dr. Rey Capangpangan said ordinary face masks using cloth materials are not effective because it cannot filter larger droplets containing the virus because of the large pores in the material.

Capangpangan’s group thus developed a filter material that can be inserted in the cloth face mask to efficiently filter out contaminants. The filter comes in the form of a nanocellulose film which is sourced from waste materials.

The team embarked on the research project last March 27, 2020 and developed the prototype at the Material Science and Polymer Chemistry Laboratory in CSU, a project funded by the DOST-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technologies Research and Development (PCIEERD).

The lab serves as a facility, not just for researchers who are into materials development, but also for local industries. The team’s current work is on cellulose biopolymer where they saw the potential in developing a filter material from it while integrating nanotechnology.

The team used paper wastes, acid, base, and bleaching reagents to produce nanocrystals then integrated with nanocellulose film to increase the filtering capability of the product.

According to Capangpangan, the nanocellulose crystals can also be extracted from agricultural wastes such as pineapple leaves and water hyacinth.

The research is in collaboration with the College of Engineering and Geosciences (CEGS) and Caraga Fabrication Laboratory in CSU in developing the 3D printed face masks.

The nanocellulose filter will cost around P15.00 per piece, while the 3D printed face mask will cost P300.00 per piece. Costs can still be lowered if mass-produced, the school said.

The face mask can be reused while the filter material can be sun-dried before reusing. The team said it continues to modify and test the product to increase its longevity.

Results from the flame and wettability tests showed that the nanocellulose filter performs well as much as the commercial face masks. The team emphasized that the research project does not aim to replace the masks used by health and medical practitioners but to provide innovation to effectively reduce contamination using washable low-cost nanocellulose films.

The lab also collaborated with Dr. Arnold Alguno from the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) for the nanocellulose extraction.

For now, the laboratory is in need of raw materials and reagents to continue its production. The team of researchers is appealing for further assistance to manufacture more face masks. — Aliana Gene E. Sarmiento, S&T Promotions Unit

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