Over a yr into the pandemic, we’ve seen all kinds of masks, from completely unsafe style items, to RGB nightmares, to not point out a bunch of different trendy choices. However when you suppose you might need an concept for a greater masks that extra folks would possibly wish to put on, the US authorities’s Biomedical Superior Analysis and Growth Authority (BARDA) has announced a competition to design “the subsequent technology of masks” — with a possible $500,000 whole prize ready for the winners.
The Masks Innovation Problem was created in partnership with the Nationwide Institute for Occupational Security and Well being (NIOSH, a corporation below the CDC) to deal with among the widespread complaints leveled at masks, like the very fact they will fog up glasses, irritate your pores and skin, grow to be uncomfortable to put on, get in the way in which of communication, and probably let COVID-19 particles in by the edges.
The competition can have two phases. The primary part, targeted on “design,” is break up into two tracks, one which considers redesigns of present masks, and one other that’s targeted on new applied sciences and supplies. Submissions are supposed to incorporate precise schematics for constructing the proposed masks, which NIOSH says could also be examined sooner or later as nicely. Section One will produce as much as 10 winners, every of whom will obtain $10,000 to assist construct a prototype of their masks.
The second “proof-of-concept” part would require contestants to reply to a hypothetical situation with a brand-new masks design, not primarily based on any present masks. Section two entrants will submit bodily prototypes of their masks for NIOSH to check. As much as 5 winners from part two will break up a complete prize pool of $400,000. NIOSH and BARDA say extra particulars on the second part will probably be obtainable at a later date.
Holding a design contest to discover a “higher” masks might produce some actual options, however past that, I believe it displays the increased role masks may play in our lives, even after a majority of persons are vaccinated. And that’s to not say that the masks chances are you’ll already personal aren’t efficient; they are. There are actually a number of issues getting in the way in which of masks use; addressing complaints in masks design is one route, however one other large problem is availability. Masks producers aren’t but in a position to constantly meet demand.
For example, it’s nonetheless not as straightforward correctly to get N95s and KN95s, two ceaselessly advisable masks that supply a step up in filtration from material varieties. There’s rather a lot at play right here too; the long run results of offshoring medical supplies manufacturing have impacted availability, however so have shortages of key masks making supplies like meltblown textile. There’s additionally the separate problem of counterfeit masks. According to the CDC, about 60 % of KN95s within the US aren’t as efficient at filtering COVID-19 particles as their labels would possibly point out.
The Biden administration has set plans into motion to power the creation of extra important pandemic provides and alleviate a few of these points, but it surely’s necessary to do not forget that constructing a greater masks is only one side of a a lot bigger technique. There’s no assure extra folks will put on the successful masks simply because they don’t fog up their glasses.
The deadline for submission to part one in every of the Mask Innovation Challenge is April 21st.