Face masks have become a part of daily life for most people around the globe. However, some are struggling to communicate effectively since face masks hide half of our faces. For some more than others, masks are a major obstacle to communication. A team of researchers from EPFL’s EssentialTech Center and Empa (the Swiss federal materials-science center) has been developing a completely transparent surgical mask for the past two years. Under the startup HMCARE they have finalized the product called HelloMasks which is made out of biomass-based material.
Transparent masks already exist, but they are regular masks with plastic windows that fog up and are neither breathable nor biodegradable. The transparent is made using a process called electrospinning, where an electric force is used to draw polymer fibers. HMCARE’s HelloMasks will allow medical staff to communicate more easily with their patients. Additionally, the masks will make it easier for the immunocompromised, hearing impaired, and elderly to understand their situation.
During the pandemic, HMCARE raised a funding round of $1.05 million. The company found it easy to raise the amount due to a rise in demand for face masks. The research on HelloMasks was initially funded by close to a dozen non-profit organizations and later by an Innosuisse grant. While the masks will first be sold to the medical community, they may eventually be marketed to the general public. The HelloMasks will soon be produced on an industrial scale and could be available as early as the start of 2021.
If you see something out of place or would like to contribute to this story, check out our Ethics and Policy section.