Masks work to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by blocking contagious particles, and the CDC recommends everyone wear them to decrease transmission of the virus when social distancing is impossible.
Medical grade N95 masks are the most effective, followed by surgical masks. With people outside of healthcare professions suddenly masking up, designers and entrepreneurs have been designing all kinds of other solutions.
Alice Min Soo Chun and her team of designers are crowdfunding the Seeus95 mask, an adhesive, clear silicone mask, on Kickstarter. The fund has already raised more than $300,000, far beyond the $25,000 goal with less than a week to go and over 3,000 backers. Chun is a former professor of architectural design and material technology at Columbia and Parsons.
The Seeus95 mask has not been evaluated by the CDC and requires further testing and expert opinions. The designers are working with MIT Lincoln Laboratory to lead testing of the filter. Crowdfunding ideas also don't always result in actual products, although Chun has delivered on four previous campaigns.
In February, Alice Min Soo Chun saw the waste created by hundreds of thousands of non-recyclable surgical masks each day from her location in New York.
Chun also noted the irritation, acne, and face marks left by masks, especially on healthcare workers who wear them for hours.
She sketched the design for the Seeus95 on a napkin.
Early sketches show how the design evolved.
Her kitchen became a temporary lab where she made prototypes out of plaster and resin.
It took 56 early designs to arrive at the current model.
The mask is designed with a focus on comfort and wearability, with features like a nose cushion to prevent irritation.
The mask is made of silicone, which is more durable than plastic and can be recycled.
Silicone is also flexible, so it can adjust to fit the contours of different faces.
Sanitizing the mask's surface is simple: soap and water, an alcohol wipe, or three minutes in the microwave will get the job done.
The mask sticks to the wearer's face because of a proprietary material: Skin Therapy Layer.
The material contains Chitosan, a polymer used in skincare and makeup products to heal skin.
SEEUS95 even claims that the Skin Therapy Layer has added benefits of smoothing skin and fighting wrinkles.
The mask can be work with an airtight seal or opened slightly around the chin.
The mask has two filters, one in each cheek.
The filters use silk, bamboo, cotton, and silver, which the designers call an "Alternative N95 bio-filter."
The filter design is still in the testing stage, and MIT Lincoln Lab's efficiency report found about 98% efficiency in tests so far.
Anti-fog coating keeps the lower half of the face visible through the mask.
Making the mask clear was an important reason for the design, according to the Kickstarter listing.
"Do we miss a piece of our selves when we miss sharing a smile with another? Our identities and our humanity are linked to our faces," designers said in a press release.
Though the mask is clear, it can still be customized.
Backers can also buy tattoos to stick to the mask for an added $8.
Masks will retail for $59, including filter replacements, with discounts for Kickstarter backers.