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QUT startup to produce face mask material for Covid-19 crisis

Cheap and biodegradable material will be fast-tracked to commercial production

A face mask material that can filter nanoparticles smaller than the Covid-19 virus has been developed by process engineers at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane.

It will be fast-tracked to commercial production by CelluAir, an advanced manufacturing startup based at the university. The company is a joint venture between QUT and Innovyz, an innovation incubator that helps university researchers commercialise products.

CelluAir has begun a six-week programme to scale up the technology and make it available as soon as possible.

The face mask material was developed by a research team led by chemical process engineer Thomas Rainey, a lecturer with QUT’s faculty of science and engineering.

The material is made from agricultural crop waste and can filter nanoparticles smaller than 100 nanometres while retaining comfort and breathability for the wearer.

“The new material is relatively cheap to produce and is biodegradable, making it sustainable for single use. Our tests showed the new material was more breathable than commercial face masks, including surgical masks,” Rainey said in a QUT statement.

“Breathability is the pressure or effort the wearer has to use to breathe through the mask. The higher the breathability, the greater the comfort and reduction in fatigue. This is an important factor for people who have to wear masks for long periods or those with existing respiratory conditions.”