Cornell University scientists have developed a new 3D printable mask and air filter design that allows you to easily breathe air in and out.
Inspired by animal noses, the new mask design offers similar levels of protection against pathogens found in N95 and surgical masks, and could also be extended to improving industrial air filters found in heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
According to Cornell associate professor Sunghwan Jung – whose fellow collaborators include South Dakota State University assistant professor Saikat Basu and University of Illinois associate professor Leonardo Chamorro, many animals have a strong sense of smell that is created by winding air flows in their nasal cavities.
He relates this to the meandering air path inside an animal’s snout that creates more surface area which translates to more distance and time for odorants and particles to travel, increasing the likelihood that particles will get caught on skin surfaces inside the nose where odor receptors can sense them.
Such structures make for highly efficient filters that capture particles in the air without a drop in air pressure than can make breathing feel labored – something modern day air filters haven’t been able to replicate.
“One of the benefits of our filter is you can easily breathe air in and out,” says Jung. The bio-inspired mask design matches the efficiency of clinically approved N95 and surgical masks.
It can also easily capture particles as small as 10 micrometers, which is necessary to prevent airborne viruses that are carried in aerosols when people cough or talk.
The new masks and air filters were developed after studying the nasal structures of nine species of animals.
These included mice that are 50 times, dogs that are 200 times and pigs that are 700 times more sensitive at smelling than humans.
Image and content: Karl Frohlich, Jisoo Yuk, and Sunghwan Jung/Cornell University