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Low-cost enhancement of facial mask filtration to prevent transmission of COVID-19 

Biometrics & Biostatistics International Journal
Hari Bhimaraju, Nitish Nag, Ramesh Jain


The use of face masks is recommended worldwide to reduce the spread of COVID-19. A plethora of facial coverings and respirators, both commercial and homemade, pervade the market, but the true filtration capabilities of many homemade measures against the virus are unclear and continue to be unexplored. In this work, we compare the following masks in keeping out particulate matter below 2.5 microns in decreasing order of their efficacy: N95 respirators, cloth masks with activated carbon air filters, cloth masks with HVAC air filters, surgical masks, heavily-starched cloth masks, lightly-starched cloth masks, and regular cloth masks. The experiments utilize an inhalation system and aerosol chamber to simulate a masked individual respiring aerosolized air. COVID-19 disproportionately affects people in low-income communities, who often lack the resources to acquire appropriate personal protective equipment and tend to lack the flexibility to shelter in place due to their publicfacing occupations. This work tests low-cost enhancements to homemade masks to assist these communities in making better masks to reduce viral transmission. Experimental results demonstrate that the filtration efficacy of cloth masks with either a light or heavy starch can approach the performance of much costlier masks. This discovery supports the idea of low-cost enhancements to reduce transmission and protect individuals from contracting COVID-19.


COVID-19, facial mask, filtration, personal protective equipment, multimodal data, health informatics, respiratory droplets