Unpad FMIPA Students Initiate the Concept of Fabric Mask with Similar Effectiveness to Medical Mask

Report by Arif Maulana
Translation by Felya Amaraputri

Five students from the Unpad Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences who initiate the idea of making fabric masks layered with graphene from rice husks.*

[unpad.ac.id, 25/02/2021] As it turned out, the COVID-19 pandemic brought in another crucial impact. The high rate of medical and other disposable masks usage contributed to the increase of medical waste and environmental pollution.

Even though there are other alternatives of masks usage, such as wearing fabric or reusable masks, evidently it is not really effective in keeping the virus that comes from either droplets or aerosols. For that reason, medical masks usage is still recommended to reduce the transmission rate of COVID-19.

This condition motivated five students from the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences (FMIPA) to develop research ideas about fabric masks with a similar effectiveness to that of medical masks.

The five students are Rifky Adhia Pratama (Chemistry), Riska Kurniawati (Biology), Farrel Radhysa Muhammad Zahdi (Biology), Didi Permana (Physics), Muhammad Naufal Ardian (Physics) and assisted by three supervisor, Dr. Diana Rakhmawaty Eddy, M.Si., Allyn Pramudya Sulaeman, MT., and Yudha Prawira Budiman, M.Sc.

The five students initiated the idea of producing masks with the combination of 60% cotton and 40% polyester, layered with graphene from rice husks. As of now, this idea is realized through a literature-based research.

When being interviewed by the Unpad Public Communication Office, Rifky, as the leader of the team, explained that masks with the composition of 60% cotton and 40% polyester are believed to be able to inhibit droplets and aerosol from the outside; especially with the addition of graphene that is layered in the surface of the masks.

Based on literature, the graphene layers give out super hydrophobic, or water repellent, characteristics. It is proven by the result of the contact angle measurement which showed that the graphene layer has a point of approximately 141 degrees. This point exceeds the classified measurement of a hydrophobic material, which is 90 degrees.

“Since the point exceeds 90 degrees, we named it super hydrophobic,” he explained.

Given the nature of the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus that can transmit through droplets and aerosols, the effect of super hydrophobic will optimally block them, both from the outside and even if the mask user is a COVID-19 survivor.

Apart from that, another effect of the graphene layer on the mask is to create a photothermal activity. This activity utilizes sunlight to catalyze a reaction.

Rifky explained that when fabric masks are layered with graphene, the data shows that the photothermal process in masks can reach 80 degrees, making it capable of inactivating viruses.

“Based on the journal data that we obtained, the spike protein in SARS-CoV-2 virus is very sensitive to high temperature. Therefore, fabric masks layers are able to produce photothermal effects that could potentially inactivate virus,” said Rifky.

Graphene

The utilization of graphene from rice husks is considered as a very unique potential. Rice husks are waste that comes from agricultural activity.

“We know that Indonesia is an agricultural country. Each rice production will produce 20-30 waste of rice husks,” he said.

From the literature study it was found that rice husks contain 30-40 carbon, the substance that is the forerunner of graphenes. Unfortunately, this potential has not been utilized well because rice husks are still commonly used to feed animals.

Aside from that, not only for fabric mask layers, graphene from rice husks can also be commercialized. It is because graphene itself has a high selling value at the global level.

Champion at International Level

Rifky and his team took this literature research to the international “ASEAN Innovative Science Environmental and Entrepreneur Fair” last January to February. As a result, the team won the gold medal and the “Best Innovation” award for the science and environment innovation category based on the competition result that announced virtually on last Tuesday (23/02)

A total of 505 participants from 20 countries took part in the virtual invention competition which was initiated by Indonesia Young Scientist Association (IYSA), who partnered with other scientist institutions from various countries.*

You can read the original article in Indonesian here: https://www.unpad.ac.id/2021/02/mahasiswa-fmipa-unpad-gagas-konsep-masker-kain-dengan-efektivitas-seperti-masker-medis/

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