DOST-funded CSU lab develops innovative filter for face mask

Aliana Gene E. Sarmiento, S&T Promotions Unit

The problem of the lack of effective face masks motivated the team of Dr. Rey Capangpangan from Caraga State University (CSU) to develop the nanocellulose filter material which is sourced from waste materials to produce face masks that are now very important for frontliners battling COVID-19.

Cloth face masks are especially in demand now. But are the ordinary face masks really effective against coronavirus? Sadly, no. These cannot filter larger droplets containing the virus because of the large pores in the material. However, with the shortage of commercial masks like surgical and N95 masks, people opted to use washable cloth face masks.

This problem motivated the team of Dr. Rey Capangpangan from Caraga State University to develop a filter material that can be inserted in the cloth face mask to efficiently filter out contaminants – the nanocellulose film which is sourced from waste materials.

The team embarked on the research project last March 27, 2020 and developed the prototype at the Material Science and Polymer Chemistry Laboratory in CSU, a project funded by the DOST-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technologies Research and Development (PCIEERD). The lab serves as a facility, not just for researchers who are into materials development, but also for local industries. The team’s current work is on cellulose biopolymer where they saw the potential in developing a filter material from it while integrating nanotechnology.

The team used paper wastes, acid, base, and bleaching reagents to produce nanocrystals then integrated with nanocellulose film to increase the filtering capability of the product. According to Dr. Capangpangan, the nanocellulose crystals can also be extracted from agricultural wastes such as pineapple leaves and water hyacinth.