SEOUL, March 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korean scientists have developed a face mask filter that retains its protective properties even after being washed over 20 times, a research university said Tuesday.
The development by a team led by Kim Il-doo at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) comes as the country struggles with a supply shortage of protective masks amid worries over the spread of the new coronavirus.
The new filter, which can be placed inside regular cotton masks, is made of a nanofabric that is specially aligned for maximum protective qualities even after prolonged use.
Existing disposable masks lose their ability to filter out particles with time, especially if they come into contact with moisture and if they are washed.
Even after the mask is washed dozens of times with soap or submerged in an ethanol solution for three hours, its protective properties are retained.
"After undergoing such a process, the filter retained its structure with its prospective properties remaining at 94 percent compared to when it was first used," KAIST said.
The new filter can be implemented in medium level KF80 masks as well as high grade N95 respirators that are in high demand by medical personnel. Even after the filtering material is folded and unfolded 4,000 times, the material retains KF80 grade protective qualities, it said.
KAIST said at present, Kim's team can churn out 1,500 filters a day at its lab, and if it gets approval from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, production capability could be ramped up.