Making a face masks that adapts to your setting

On this interview, Information-Medical speaks to Professor Seung Hwan Ko about his newest analysis through which he developed a face masks that may adapt to your altering situations and setting.

Individuals are turning into accustomed to carrying face masks day by day because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. What impressed your analysis into face masks and the way they are often tailored for higher use?

Many of the face masks invented up to now haven’t paid consideration to the dynamic change of the customers’ situation and setting. As a substitute, most face masks have simply centered on growing the filtering effectivity. Nonetheless, regardless that the masks itself has a really excessive filtration effectivity, it doesn’t imply it’s user-friendly (often, a high-efficiency filter means the masks is tough to breathe and uncomfortable).

At sure situations, different elements are extra essential than filtration effectivity. For instance, final yr, I learn information articles saying that a number of college students died throughout a bodily training class whereas carrying a masks. This may increasingly indicate that one single sort of filter masks can’t react correctly to the dynamically altering situation of the person and the person ought to due to this fact carry numerous varieties of face masks and alter them relying on their bodily demand or setting change.

We tried to invent an AI-driven face masks that detects the person’s situation (predict the short-term respiration price change with assistance from AI) or detects the environmental air high quality change and routinely modifications the pore dimension, altering the trade-off between the comfortability and filtering effectivity.

Face Masks

Picture Credit score: Volurol/

The principle function of face masks is to filter out dangerous pollution. How do face masks do that?

Many of the off-the-shelf face masks undertake material air filters through which very skinny (about 10 – 100 occasions thinner than a human hair) fibers entangle one another to kind a loosely packed sponge-like porous construction. As an airstream goes by way of the complicated, intertwined community of tiny air tunnels, the small airborne particles, which we name pollution, collide with the fibers and cling to them. That is how the face masks do the filtration.

Our invention additionally shares the identical working mechanism by way of the filtration of the pollution, but differs vastly in that it permits for dynamic tuning of how the mechanism really works.

Are you able to describe how face masks are sometimes designed and developed?

Till two years in the past, it’s true that there was not a lot curiosity in face masks as a result of masks have been only a sanitary product that was positioned on the outskirts of our odd lives. Nonetheless, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic modified the scenario.

Via the final yr and even as we speak, numerous stories on growing new, superior types of face masks are being made, whereas the vast majority of these nonetheless depend on standard, passive air filtration expertise. To the very best of our data, our invention is the first-ever reported growth of a ‘dynamically tunable face masks’.

Many individuals discover face masks uncomfortable, significantly when exercising. Why is that this?

When folks put on a masks, they discover the masks uncomfortable, particularly when exercising, as a result of the physique wants extra oxygen and respiration price will increase. Nonetheless, a masks often induces the stress drop (or stress distinction) because of the presence of the filter.

The stress drop (or stress distinction) will increase extra for the upper effectivity filter. The upper stress drop (or stress distinction) makes it laborious for the person to breathe and consumes extra power (thus makes the person uncomfortable).

Are you able to describe the way you carried out your newest analysis into designing a face masks that adapts to altering situations?

Our crew is a cooperative coalescence of specialists from numerous fields of engineering, starting from materials science, mechanical, electrical engineering, and even machine intelligence. That’s how we’ve been capable of develop an operable AI-driven face masks ranging from scratch.

Our crew began by conceiving an archetype concept that was slightly bit imprecise to see the primary time. Nonetheless, the well-trained engineering minds from numerous sides made it doable to materialize the concept right into a tangible, convincing entity. In that sense, we might say, there was collaborative multidisciplinary engineering behind the profitable execution of our work.

Face Mask

Picture Credit score: Tailored from ACS Nano 2021, DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.1c06204

How did you develop your dynamic respirator? How does this air filter work in numerous situations?

One of many placing options of our dynamic respirator is that it will possibly routinely rework its filtration traits to suit the given circumstance. This implies the system is designed to be able to ‘sensing’ the setting related to its operation.

Thus, we endowed the sensing capability to the system by incorporating sensors. A PM (particulate matter) sensor is used to measure how a lot of the ambient air is polluted and the barometers are used for sensing the wearer’s respiratory sample reflecting the bodily situation. The knowledge gathered from the sensors is then used to make complete ‘situational consciousness’ of the AI algorithm which then generates the dynamic adjustment of filtration traits to the completely different eventualities.

What advantages will this face masks have for folks in comparison with different face masks accessible?

The normal masks often has the essential idea that customers have to adapt themselves to the masks (which means that customers have to bear the uncomfortable scenario). Nonetheless, we tried to invent a brand new idea through which the masks adapts itself to the person’s situation and exterior setting.

I feel our AI-driven masks is the primary demonstration to think about the dynamic change of person’s demand and environmental situations, and it modifications the present focus in masks from filters to folks (customers) for the primary time.

What position did synthetic intelligence (AI) play in your analysis?

What we’ve been making an attempt to construct by way of this work was an automatic respirator that may seamlessly adapt to a person wearer, necessitating a extremely personalised operational algorithm; the respirator and algorithm working will, in a figurative sense, acknowledge ‘attribute’ transitions of respiratory patterns of a selected person.

Nonetheless, the attribute of how the transition happens, for instance, differs amongst people. This makes growing a common algorithm that may be launched to the general public extraordinarily difficult. On this context, we select to develop an AI algorithm that learns the respiratory traits of particular person wearers to allow ‘common personalization’, which isn’t doable with odd, rigid algorithms.

Do you consider that if adaptable face masks have been available extra folks would put on them often, doubtlessly lowering the unfold of COVID-19?

The key motivation for the AI-driven masks got here from my private expertise. Once I go to the gymnasium or exit jogging, I really feel a powerful urge to take off the masks throughout train. I might additionally see many individuals placing the masks away whereas utilizing the working machine. Throughout the COVID-19 scenario, many locations (indoor or out of doors) have a strict restriction coverage for carrying a masks.

The key cause why they don’t put on the masks is just that they are often very uncomfortable respiration whereas carrying it. AI-driven masks routinely alter the trade-off between the filtering effectivity and comfortability to fulfill the customers’ dynamic situation and enviornment change. The adaptable face masks are anticipated to assist extra folks put on masks often and doubtlessly scale back the unfold of COVID-19.

People wearing face masks while exercising

Picture Credit score: Drazen Zigic/

What additional analysis must be carried out earlier than these personalised facemasks could be available?

Miniaturization of the masks and to make clear using the face masks out there. Technological developments usually have a tendency to cover the expertise itself from our sight. Gentle sufficient, sufficiently small, and due to this fact oblivious applied sciences, can supply pure utility on their very own with out distracting the person. This philosophy is main our crew to find additional numerous engineering choices to attenuate all the system and enhance the person expertise.

What are the following steps in your analysis?

Along with the miniaturization, we are attempting to find numerous elastic supplies to endow next-level performance to the stretchable air filter, one key a part of our system. For instance, we might make an air filter that may generate even a small quantity of electrical energy on account of the mechanical modulation of the air filter.

Or, we might concentrate on self-healable supplies to reinforce the long-term usability and mechanical stability of the stretchable air filter. Most of all, we expect energetic cooperation with medical specialists from each nook of the globe to switch our expertise to the business.

The place can readers discover extra data?

Extra detailed data on the AI-driven sensible face masks could be discovered within the latest publication

“Dynamic Pore Modulation of Stretchable Air Filter for Machined Realized Adaptive Respiratory Safety”, ACS Nano, in press, 2021. [doi/10.1021/acsnano.1c06204]

An extra associated research from our group on the clear and reusable filter could be present in our earlier publication “Excessive Effectivity, Clear, Reusable and Energetic PM2.5 Filters by Hierarchical Ag Nanowire Percolation Community”, Nano Letters, 17, 4339-4346, 2017. [doi/10.1021/acs.nanolett.7b01404]

About Professor Seung Hwan Ko

Seung Hwan Ko is a professor in Utilized Nano & Thermal Science (ANTS) Lab, Mechanical Engineering division., Seoul Nationwide College, Korea. Earlier than becoming a member of Seoul Nationwide College, he had been a college at KAIST, Korea since 2009. He obtained his Ph.D. diploma in mechanical engineering from UC Berkeley in 2006.Professor Seung Hwan Ko

He labored as a postdoc at UC Berkeley till 2009. His present analysis pursuits are useful filters (variable pore filter, clear filter, reusable filter, stretchable filter, antibacterial filter), wearable electronics, stretchable/versatile electronics, VR/AR applied sciences.

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