MIT, Brigham and Women's Hospital design reusable N95 mask

Bioengineers at Cambridge-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology teamed up with clinicians at Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital to design N95 masks that can be sterilized for reuse.

As healthcare professionals nationwide struggled to obtain sufficient personal protective equipment during the pandemic, MIT bioengineers created a sustainable prototype using sterilizable materials. Their model is known as the Injection Molded Autoclavable, Scalable, Conformable system and its preliminary testing results are published in the British Medical Journal Open.

The team used injection molding with silicone rubber that can tolerate up to 572 degrees to create the mask, adding elastic straps and two replaceable filters that guard against solid particles. They also used 3D imaging to ensure the masks could fit a variety of face shapes and sizes and tested several sterilization techniques, none of which produced any significant differences compared to the pre-sterilized mask. 

"We wanted to create a mask that could be easily sterilized and reused for several reasons. Not only is this important because of disruptions to the supply chain, but also disposable masks, gloves and other PPE can cause a tremendous amount of litter," Adam Wentworth, one of the product's engineers, said in a July 8 news release.

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