After more than a year of pandemic, both the surgical mask like the FFP2 have become our best friendss. However, this element of protection is far from ideal. Foggy glasses, skin irritation and the potential for viral load particles to seep through the sides are some of the problems millions of people experience almost daily. But the US government’s Advanced Biomedical Research and Development Authority (BARDA) wants to change it. Therefore, it has launched a competition that will pay up to $ 500,000 to develop a type of mask that improves comfort and provides enhanced protection.
The agency has partnered with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to launch the «Mask Innovation Challenge: Building the Mask of Tomorrow«. One of the axes of the contest is to support the development of a new type of mask that must comply with a series of predefined standards. These include be effective after prolonged use, which is precisely where some of the aforementioned problems arise with current surgical masks and FFP2. The product must also be compatible with low-cost and mass production in order to reach the general public.
In search of a type of mask that solves everything bad that we have become accustomed to
The competition to create a new type of mask will be divided into two phases. The first focuses on the design. On the one hand, the contestants must present proposals that represent an improvement of the existing ones. On the other hand, they will have to venture into use new technologies and materials to create the mask of tomorrow. Presentations should be as complete as possible and include construction diagrams. In this phase, 10 winners will be selected and each will receive a prize of $ 10,000 for the construction of a prototype.
The second phase, on the other hand, is a proof of concept. Here the contestants will be asked to respond to a given scenario with a new type of mask. For it will need to submit physical prototypes not based on any existing mask. In this phase, NIOSH will subject them to a strict evaluation and select five winners, who will divide the prize of $ 400,000. The deadline to register for the “Mask Innovation Challenge” is April 21st.
Although the world is the protagonist of the largest vaccination campaign in history, everything seems to indicate that surgical masks and FFP2 are still far from disappearing from our lives. COVID-19 vaccines are effective in protecting people and preventing them from getting sick. However, it is still being learned how they will impact the spread of the virus. For this reason, it is recommended that, even if people have been fully vaccinated, they continue to take precautions such as “wearing a mask, maintaining a safe distance and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces in public places.”