During a pandemic in which aerosol and droplet transmission is possible, such as the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, the demand for face masks that meet medical or workplace standards can prevent most individuals from obtaining suitable protection. Cloth masks are widely believed to impede droplet and aerosol transmission, but most are constructed from materials with unknown filtration efficiency, airflow resistance and water resistance. Here we provide data on a range of common fabrics that might be used to construct masks, complimenting existing studies by largely considering particles in the micron range (a plausible challenge size for human generated aerosols). None of the materials were suitable for N95 masks, but many could provide useful filtration (>90%) of 3 micron particles, with low pressure drop. These were: nonwoven sterile wraps, dried baby wipes and some double-knit cotton materials. Decontamination of N95 masks using isopropyl alcohol produces the expected increase in particle penetration, but for 3 micron A c c e p t e d M a n u s c r i p t 2 • ORIGINAL ARTICLE S. N. ROGAK, ET AL. particles, filtration efficiency is still well above 95%. Tightly woven thin fabrics, despite having the visual appearance of a good particle barrier, had remarkably low filtration efficiency and high pressure drop. The better material structures expose individual fibers to the flow while the poor materials may have small fundamental fibers but these are in tightly bundled yarns. Despite the complexity of the design of a very good mask, it is clear that for the larger aerosol particles, any mask will provide substantial protection to the wearer and those around them.
scite is a Brooklyn-based startup that helps researchers better discover and understand research articles through Smart Citations–citations that display the context of the citation and describe whether the article provides supporting or contrasting evidence. scite is used by students researchers from around the world and is funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health.