CATALAN scientists design recycled and recyclable face masks through 3D printing
Given the global concern with climate change and Spain’s commitment to achieving climatic neutrality by 2050, it was only a matter of time before researchers came up with a more eco-friendly face mask than the disposable ones most people are currently using. A group of scientists from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) is leading the way in developing a revolutionary method for recycling disposable masks and repurposing them using 3D printing.
“Basically, the mask will have layers of recycled polypropylene fibre from properly discarded and sterilised surgical masks,” one of the team members, Jaroslaw Serafin explained to Spanish daily Informacion.
“A protective layer of silver and cerium oxide nanoparticles will also be included, due to its antiviral function. The objective is to obtain a product that protects, is functional, innovative and sustainable,” added Serafin, who is a biotechnologist and PHD student in Chemical Process Engineering.
Incredibly, once the used masks are sterilised, they can then be used to create a plastic filament to create a new mask using a 3D printer. During this process, cerium oxide and silver ions can be added to make an even more protective face shield than the original recycled mask. The new 3D masks themselves are reusable and can in turn be recycled to create even more, thus cutting down on waste and decreasing the carbon footprint.
“The activated carbon obtained previously can be used as an air filter. In this way, a multifunctional and totally reusable protective mask is obtained”, the researcher pointed out.
Each year, eight million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in our oceans, causing untold damage to the ecosystem. Discarded masks that find their way into the sea or rivers contain large amounts of carbon and polypropylene (PP) that release toxic substances into the waters while taking years to degrade.