In light of the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPEs) in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi start-up has launched KAWACH – an “affordable and effective face mask” at par with N95 masks.
ETEX, a start-up for “designing and developing smart textile solutions for healthcare”, said the facemask would come in use now “considering unprecedented challenges in supply of PPEs (personal protective equipment) during the COVID-19 crisis”.
“The cost of N95 mask used for the protection against COVID-19 in the Indian market is quite high, making it unaffordable for the masses. People are using surgical masks also but due to loose-fitting of such masks, not securing proper cover around the nose and mouth; this may allow COVID-19 virus to enter or leave from the side edges. Furthermore, the use of sewn cloth face covering or handkerchief is useful only to an extent, not providing sufficient protection due to absence of nonwoven layer,” the institute said in a statement.
“KAWACH mask is at par with N95 in terms of proper fitting, and engineered filtration layer that could provide up to 98% filtration efficiency (3-micron size particle; ASTM F 2101). The mask price is kept affordable (below Rs.45) so that it can reach masses for enhanced protection,” it further said, adding that the “product efficiency is backed with the strong technical inputs from the core textile team in the Department of Textile and Fibre Engineering”.
Professor Bipin Kumar from the Textile and Fibre Engineering Department said, “India has several massive challenges ahead – disposal of PPEs (including mask and coveralls) after one-time use and ensuring the minimum use of nonwoven technology for making PPEs. Though a nonwoven layer is a must for ensuring desired filtration level but the loose fibrous structure makes the product disposable after one use.”
“Disposing of synthetic polypropylene nonwoven could have a detrimental effect on the environment. Finding other textile solution that offers reusability, biodegradability, affordability and scalability for PPEs is the need of the hour; this could ensure meeting both the demand and also safeguarding our environment. Development of KAWACH mask is a result of our indigenous manufacturing capabilities,” he said.
The team is also working on “new prototype designs for the mask to make it washable and reusable for at least 10 times”.
“This could be a game-changing solution for COVID-19 crisis for protecting a massive population of our country in the most economical and effective way. The team is also exploring other textile technologies for developing coveralls. The start-up is seeking funding support from DST, BIRAC, Corporate CSR, etc. to scale up,” IIT-D said in its statement.
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