AI-driven dynamic face mask adapts to exercise, pollution levels

Face masks have become commonplace during the coronavirus epidemic, but that doesn’t mean they’re always pleasant, particularly while exercising or doing other strenuous activities. For now, researchers reported in ACS Nano have created a dynamic respirator that changes its pore size depending on the environment, such as the intensity of exercise or amount of pollutant pollution, enabling wearers to breathe more easily when the maximum filtration levels are not needed.

As well as preventing COVID-19 from spreading, face masks are used by individuals with respiratory issues to filter hazardous particles from the air. As long as air pollution is minimal or someone is exercising alone outside — both of which are considered low-risk activities for the transmission of COVID-19 — then higher filtering levels aren’t necessary. However, existing masks aren’t flexible enough to adapt to changing environmental circumstances. Trapped exhaled air may lead to unpleasant feelings such as heat, humidity, foul breath, and discomfort over time. This is particularly true if you exercise a lot. A respirator’s filtration properties may be automatically adjusted in response to changing environmental circumstances, according to Seung Hwan Ko and colleagues.

The team created a micropore-expanding dynamic air filter that can be extended to let more air through. The filter’s breathability was greatly improved but filtering efficiency was only reduced by approximately 6% because to the use of electrospun nanofibers. An air pump and microcontroller chip were mounted on a lightweight stretcher around the filter by the research team. A wireless connection connects the gadget to a remote computer running AI software that responds to airborne particle matter and changes in the wearer’s breathing patterns while exercising. Human participants were tested using a face mask with two filters attached on each side. When a volunteer exercised in a polluted environment, the stretcher properly produced a lower increase in pore size than when the person exercised in clean air. A key benefit of using AI software is that it can customize the respirator based on the unique breathing characteristics of each user. They note that the stretcher may be rebuilt with a pump-free mechanism in the future to make the device smaller, lighter, and less burdensome.

The National Research Foundation of Korea provided support for this work, which the authors gratefully appreciate.

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Categories: Tech&Innovation