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Solar panel plastics used to make coronavirus medical equipment

Image: Oregon Department of Transportation [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Simple design means hundreds of face shields can be created each day

Plastics used to make printed solar panels have been repurposed by University of Newcastle scientists to create face shields for medical staff treating Covid-19 patients.

Paul Dastoor, director of the university’s centre for organic electronics, said the design for the face shields was developed by a group of engineers, physicists and product designers collaborating with health workers. The Covid-19 face shields are made from a piece of PET plastic, held in place by an elastic headband.

“The chosen design is simple and fast to assemble, so we’re able to generate hundreds a day which are already being distributed in our region and beyond,” he said in a university statement.

“We were able to tap into the collective expertise of the university, connecting with fellow researchers to arrive at a prototype we knew we could manufacture rapidly.”

Dastoor said the university’s industry partners also contributed to the project, with a local laser company cutting the PET in bulk and the Australian National Fabrication Facility—based at the university—helping to build the shield manufacture assembly line.

“The beauty of this kind of effort is, now we have a model we know addresses the needs of those on the ground, we’ve been able to collaborate to make the production process even faster. There’s truly a community rallying together to contribute what they can in this crisis.”

Vice-chancellor Alex Zelinsky said the project was indicative of the role the university could play in helping to address the global challenges of Covid-19, such as medical equipment shortages.