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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

The need for fully bio-based facemasks to counter coronavirus outbreaks: A perspective

Das, Oisik; Neisiany, Rasoul Esmaeely; Capezza, Antonio Jose; Hedenqvist, Mikael S.; Forsth, Michael; Xu, Qiang; Jiang, Lin; Ji, Dongxiao; Ramakrishna, Seeram


The onset of coronavirus pandemic has sparked a shortage of facemasks in almost all nations. Without this personal protective equipment, healthcare providers, essential workers, and the general public are exposed to the risk of infection. In light of the aforementioned, it is critical to balance the supply and demand for masks. COVID-19 will also ensure that masks are always considered as an essential commodity in future pandemic preparedness. Moreover, billions of facemasks are produced from petrochemicals derived raw materials, which are non-degradable upon disposal after their single use, thus causing environmental pollution and damage. The sustainable way forward is to utilise raw materials that are side-stream products of local industries to develop facemasks having equal or better efficiency than the conventional ones. In this regard, wheat gluten biopolymer, which is a by-product or co-product of cereal industries, can be electrospun into nanofibre membranes and subsequently carbonised at over 700 degrees C to form a network structure, which can simultaneously act as the filter media and reinforcement for gluten-based masks. In parallel, the same gluten material can be processed into cohesive thin films using plasticiser and hot press. Additionally, lanosol, a naturally-occurring substance, imparts fire (V-0 rating in vertical burn test), and microbe resistance in gluten plastics. Thus, thin films of flexible gluten with very low amounts of lanosol (<10 wt%) can be bonded together with the carbonised mat and shaped by thermoforming to create the facemasks. The carbon mat acting as the filter can be attached to the masks through adapters that can also be made from injection moulded gluten. The creation of these masks could simultaneously be effective in reducing the transmittance of infectious diseases and pave the way for environmentally benign sustainable products. (c) 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Facemasks; Coronavirus; Gluten; Electrospinning; Bio-based membranes

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2020, Volume: 736, article number: 139611
Publisher: ELSEVIER

      SLU Authors

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG3 Good health and well-being
    SDG12 Responsible consumption and production

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Polymer Technologies

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