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Fibrenamics from UMinho develops new generation of masks and protective materials

18 Nov 2020 News

Fibrenamics from UMinho develops new generation of masks and protective materials

Fibrenamics from UMinho develops new generation of masks and protective materials

Fibrenamics from UMinho develops new generation of masks and protective materials

There are six R&D projects on PPE’s that represent an investment of around 3 million. Reusable masks and other protective equipment with antibacterial and antiviral capabilities for use in a professional context are some of the examples of these innovative projects.

Fibrenamics, the R&D interface of the University of Minho, is developing six research projects for the creation of a new generation of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE's), with unique properties, in which some cases, in addition to allowing their reuse, they also provide greater bacterial and viral filtration capacity, with hypoallergenic properties, for use in professional and non-professional contexts. The development of these PPE’s projects is carried out jointly with several Portuguese entities and involves a total investment in R&D of around 3 million euros.

Taking into account the global concerns surrounding COVID-19, the overload of health systems and a clear mismatch in the supply of protective equipment in view of the respective demand, these projects aim to respond to these needs, but at the same time add value that aims to contribute to reducing the dependence on foreign markets for the main raw material (filtering capacity), and to help to decrease environmental pollution, to present PPE's with improved protection levels, and above all to provide the national industry with technical and scientific support for their development and production. Each of these projects is being developed in partnership with Fibrenamics, from the University of Minho, and aims to meet differentiating specifications and objectives:

1. Multigrade Mask– This project, promoted by the company Borgstena, in partnership with Fibrenamics of the University of Minho, aims to develop a surgical mask with a gradient of properties that guarantees the fulfillment of all the requirements of the standard EN 14683. In addition to the objective to create a surgical mask based on fibrous materials alternative to the traditional ones, it is intended that the final solution still has functional properties of high added value and perfectly adaptable to the needs of health professionals, namely in terms of bacteriological and viral protection. On the other hand, it is intended to provide greater ergonomics compared to market solutions.

2. ActiFiber– Project developed by the company LMA, in partnership with Fibrenamics of the University of Minho, which aims to develop an innovative concept for masks, with level II protection, for use by people who, not being health professionals, are in daily contact with a high number of people due to their professional activity, with high durability to the number of washes and time of use (up to 8h), this mask will be comfortable and ergonomic. For this purpose, innovative three-dimensional fibrous structures will be developed, with greater filtration capacity.

3. Nano Mask- This project, promoted by the company POLEVA, in partnership with Fibrenamics of the University of Minho, aims to develop FFP2 masks, based on multi-scale fibrous structures, with particular emphasis on the development of nanomaterials, namely fibrous nanostructures with a high capacity for viral filtration. In addition, this product will also be ergonomically differentiating, thanks to the mask design. The innovative concept presented, in addition to suppressing an emerging need in the supply of PPE caused by the pandemic COVID-19, also represents an advance in the state of the art, through the development of a new generation of fibrous structures with the industrial conversion from the company.

4. Active Protection– A project by the Latino company, carried out in partnership with Fibrenamics from the University of Minho, whose objective is to develop a new generation of reusable PPE's (gowns, caps and leggings). Fibrous structures with a barrier effect are being developed, starting from their functionalization, which aim to guarantee anti-bacteorological and anti-viral protection, in a professional context (homes, firefighters, among others). In this way, it is intended, through functionalization, to materialize an innovative concept incorporating active characteristics in PPE, contrary to what happens in passive (traditional) PPE, in a fast and agile way, with a aim to the quick placing of these products on the market.

5. COV_YARN– This project, promoted by the company Tearfil, in partnership with Fibrenamics of the University of Minho, aims to develop an innovative portfolio of multifunctional yarns for the production of a new generation of reusable PPE's (masks, gowns, caps and leggings). In this context, within the scope of this project, the deposition of nanoparticles, with antibacterial and antiviral capacity, on filiform materials (wires) is being explored. As part of this project, PPE demonstrator models will be developed, based on the developed multifunctional wires.

6. Sonix– The Sonix company, in partnership with Fibrenamics of the University of Minho, has as objective with this project the development of new personal protective equipment to combat COVID-19, namely masks, leggings, gowns, coveralls, cogulas, among others. In this context, for these products, a disruptive approach was adopted, exploring concepts of functional design.

In order to fulfill the objectives proposed in each of the projects, it is foreseen to carry out studies around new materials and processes, which allow conceptualizing and developing, in the end, functional PPE's, based on highly efficient and fast production processes with waste reduction, in order to guarantee a response to the pressing needs of the market and, in particular, of health professionals.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had an extremely negative impact in the most diverse socio-economic contexts, with an extremely very high contagion rate worldwide, especially when compared to other viruses. In this sense, there has been a widespread demand, both from private individuals and from health systems and their professionals, for individual protection equipment and specific medical devices, and there is no offer to accompany this demand. In particular, in the case of health systems, the demand is focused on surgical masks, which prevent or mitigate the transmission of infectious agents between people, being one of the most wanted equipment and with the greatest added value for users. It is with the mission of being able to help answer these needs and mitigate the community transmission of SARS-CoV-2, that together with different partners, we launched ourselves into these challenges of developing truly innovative PPE's with an impact on society ”, explains João Bessa, Technology Manager at Fibrenamics at the University of Minho.
The projects are being developed under the incentive system for research and development activities and investment in testing and optimization of the infrastructures in the context of Covid-19, with the support of Portugal 2020 and the European Structural and Investment Funds of the European Union.

There are six R&D projects on PPE’s that represent an investment of around 3 million. Reusable masks and other protective equipment with antibacterial and antiviral capabilities for use in a professional context are some of the examples of these innovative projects.

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