Professor ‘facemask’ breathes second life into his eco-friendly adaptors made from corn

Professor Marek Macko (right) will now turn his corn waste and a proprietary blend polymer mix into adaptors for the fire service, before making them commercially available. UKW

A Bydgoszcz academic has found a second life for eco-friendly facemask adaptors developed to help medics during the COVID crisis.

Using corn waste and a proprietary blend polymer mix, Professor Marek Macko and his team from the city’s Kazimierz Wielki University first came up with the 3D printed biodegradable adaptors last year for health workers when demand surged leading to a shortage of supply.

Professor Marek Macko and his team from the city’s Kazimierz Wielki University first came up with the 3D printed biodegradable adaptors last year for health workers when demand surged leading to a shortage of supply.Professor Marek Macko

Now the team will begin making them for firemen.

Professor Macko told TFN: “After helping out the medics last year, we were approached by some firefighters this year about creating adaptors suitable for the type of masks they wear.

The technology can also be used to prepare masks for other professionals such as builders or painters, anyone who needs to wear a high-quality mask.Professor Marek Macko

“We were delighted to be able to meet all of the requirements for these masks and help them out.”

Many innovations that were created to help combat the COVID crisis will be repurposed going forward and this is an early example of that.

Polylactic acid plastic, also known as PLA, is a rapidly degradable pastic which could be completely biodegraded between 60 and 80 days.Professor Marek Macko

While the project is currently part of a PhD study there is a high likelihood that it will be spun out into a commercial venture in the coming years.

Polylactic acid plastic, also known as PLA, is a rapidly degradable plastic which could be completely biodegraded between 60 and 80 days.

When compared to other popular plastic blends such as PET, polyethylene terephthalate, which while recyclable it is not compostable the PLA blend is the more environmentally friendly and financially sensible solution.

The proprietary blend polymer mix which is combined with material from corn waste are 3D printed.Professor Marek Macko

Professor Macko told TFN: “We have designed these for firefighters now but we could also use this technology to prepare masks for other professionals such as builders or painters, anyone who needs to wear a high-quality mask.

“We use a 3D model programme on the computer to prepare the correct dimensions before printing the part.”

He added: “We have so far created the adaptors for seventeen types of masks, for the firefighters it was less important to create a barrier against the virus but to block the smoke, the smells and other chemicals in the air that they might breathe in.

Professor Macko hopes that following the adaptors’ success with health care workers, they will soon be able to begin producing them commercially.UKW

“These barriers we created are robust and work so well that they have recommended them to other units and interest in our adaptors is growing throughout Poland.”

He continued: “We are currently testing which is the optimal blend of such materials. Once we discover the optimal amount I am sure this will be interesting to commercial partners and we have cluster of about 140 firms in Bydgoszcz that work in polymer processing which could be interested. This will be a cheap material with a wide variety of uses.”

The range of adaptors for masks that the team have currently created include leading models made by international brands such as 3M, Honeywell and Easybreath.