Flexible Nanoporous Template for the Design and Development of Reusable Anti-COVID-19 Hydrophobic Face Masks.ACS Nano. 2020 06 23; 14(6):7659-7665.AN
Since the outbreak of the severe respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the use of face masks has become ubiquitous worldwide to control the rapid spread of this pandemic. As a result, the world is currently facing a face mask shortage, and some countries have placed limits on the number of masks that can be bought by each person. Although the surgical grade N95 mask provides the highest level of protection currently available, its filtration efficiency for sub-300 nm particles is around 85% due to its wider pore size (∼300 nm). Because the COVID-19 virus shows a diameter of around 65-125 nm, there is a need for developing more efficient masks. To overcome these issues, we demonstrate the development of a flexible, nanoporous membrane to achieve a reusable N95 mask with a replaceable membrane and enhanced filtration efficiency. We first developed a flexible nanoporous Si-based template on a silicon-on-insulator wafer using KOH etching and then used the template as a hard mask during a reactive ion etching process to transfer the patterns onto a flexible and lightweight (<0.12 g) polymeric membrane. Pores with sizes down to 5 nm were achieved with a narrow distribution. Theoretical calculations show that airflow rates above 85 L/min are possible through the mask, which confirms its breathability over a wide range of pore sizes, densities, membrane thicknesses, and pressure drops. Finally, the membrane is intrinsically hydrophobic, which contributes to antifouling and self-cleaning as a result of droplets rolling and sliding on the inclined mask area.