Physicists Can Make N95-Like Respirators With Cotton Candy Machines, Says Study

The new N95-like respirators create electrocharged filters with old-fashioned cotton candy machines.
Brad Bergan

Physicists have discovered a way of maufacturing N95-like respirator filters using a cotton candy machine — at a cheaper price and much faster than conventional means of assembly, according to a recent paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

This could potentially make respirators many deem crucial to slowing the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus much more accessible.


New N95-like respirator made with cotton candy machine

While the COVID-19 crisis has made shockwaves across the world, scientists have repeatedly supported mask-wearing as a means of reducing the spread of COVID-19. But sadly, cloth masks aren't perfect. Research suggests N95 respirators — face masks with electrocharged filters designed to attract and capture viruses — are sorely needed.

However, N95 respirators are expensive, difficult to make and are anything but abundant. In this latest study, Mahesh Bandi — a physicist with the nonlinear and non-equilibrium physics unit of OIST Graduate University in Onna, Okinawa — has discovered how to create a filter as effective as ones used in N95 respirators, but without the steep price and costly production process, reports.

New COVID-19 mask needs three filters, 3D printing technology

The new technique calls for the heating of ordinary plastics (like bottles or shopping bags), and then placing them inside cotton candy machines — also called candy floss machines. Then the machine spins the plastic into a material not unlike the mesh of cotton candy, which is electrocharged during the spinning process.

Afterwards, Bandi cuts the resulting material into small square snippets, and then enhances their electrostatic charge via putting them in proximity to the vent of a common air ionizer.

The new cotton candy-like filters were tested inside surgical masks, where they proved highly effective — but the masks weren't a realistic option. This is when Bandi designed his own mask to allow for a simple insertion and removal of filters — since each mask requires three — and made use of a 3D printer to create the final product.

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No plans yet to manufacture cotton candy-machine masks

Intense testing — which involved microscopic inspections and comparisons with N95 filters — saw the filters prove as effective at stopping the inhalation of coronaviruses as normal N95-like respirators.

As of writing, Bandi hasn't announced plans to erect manufacturing centers for the masks — but this doesn't mean other interested parties can't take on the challenge. We can only hope cotton candy machine centers to go up in every neighborhood, with DIY masks as effective as N95 masks at preventing coronavirus contraction flying our of the carts like a real cotton candy dispenser. But it's probably not a great idea to eat the filters.

We have created an interactive page to demonstrate engineers’ noble efforts against COVID-19 across the world. If you are working on a new technology or producing any equipment in the fight against COVID-19, please send your project to us to be featured.

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