With the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers at an all-time high, a Purdue University team has developed a technique to extend the shelf life of N95 masks. Their area of focus: the elastic band that attaches to the front of the mask.

“The shelf life for an N95 mask is primarily affected by the elastic band holding the mask together, since the elastic disintegrates after a certain period of time,” says Hersh Rai, a graduate student at Purdue in computer and information technology. “We designed a way to create the masks using the same filter material on the front, but with different materials for the band and with novel attachment locations and methods.”

The Purdue team’s approach, which the innovators worked to patent through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization, is designed to extend the shelf life and the individual fit of the mask. “We took our expertise in design and applied it to help fix a problem affecting the frontline workers during this pandemic,” says Nicholas Toan-Nang Vu, a graduate student at Purdue in mechanical engineering.

The team created several design options that work with elastic or different materials that can be attached to the front of the mask in different ways to allow the band materials to be swapped out so the mask can last longer. Researchers say the designs provide more attachment points for the band materials, which allow for a more secure fit without contaminating the front material.

But to continue developing this technology, the Purdue team is looking to align themselves with partners. For more information on licensing and other opportunities, contact Matt Halladay of OTC at mrhalladay@prf.org.