UBC researchers develop biodegradable medical mask
N95 mask design uses only wood fibres harvested in B.C.
Researchers in the BioProducts Institute at the University of British Columbia announced they are closing in on a prototype of a compostable N95-level mask built from materials sourced solely within Canada. The UBC engineering team says their prototype, dubbed the Can-Mask, could not only fulfill PPE demands but also reduce dependence on foreign supply chains and boost the B.C. economy.
“With escalating tensions during a pandemic, international supply lines for medical masks can break down, creating local shortages,” says UBC researcher Johan Foster, who also serves as the NSERC Canfor Industrial Research Chair in Advanced Bioproducts. “When we decided to design a mask back in March, we knew early on we wanted a solution that uses local materials, is easy to produce and inexpensive, with the added bonus of being compostable and biodegradable.”
The mask frame is made entirely from B.C. wood fibres including pine, spruce, cedar and other softwoods. One of the UBC developed prototypes uses a commercial N95 filter on a wood fibre frame; the other uses a UBC designed filter composed of wood-based products. According to the researchers, both prototypes are being tested for fit and permeability, with plans to apply for Health Canada certification. In addition, the team is also investigating how to scale production of the mask cost effectively.