A face mask prototype that is aimed to help prevent the spread of coronavirus is being developed by Stirling based tensARC, a fabric engineering company specialising in precision production of bespoke tailored fabric solar control solutions. This prototype is an alternative to surgical masks which may be in short supply. The Face Gaiter resembles existing sport face coverings but is engineered specifically for source control*. It is also durable, machine washable and can be reused hundreds of times.
The company were looking for an academic partner to study and validate the efficacy of Face Gaiter in infection control, reducing the risk of community transmission by service workers and the general public; a matter of imperative importance in the COVID-19 pandemic.
After being referred by Scottish Enterprise, Laura Goodfellow, Head of Business Engagement at Interface, was able to translate tensARC’s enquiry, issue their expertise request to various universities within Scotland, match them up with their chosen university (University of the West of Scotland (UWS)), and secure a Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher to fund the project – in just over a week!
“The support from Laura Goodfellow was amazing. The Face Gaiter concept is quite radical and can be a little hard to grasp but she jumped on it straight away, worked on it through the Easter weekend, and found us the perfect partner at UWS. The Scottish Funding Council fast tracked the Innovation Voucher application in just 24hrs because it was COVID-19 related and it has allowed us to start the work while we wait for other funding to be approved. The grant will save us at least three weeks on the testing program and we hope to have initial results by the end of May. In 18 years of running a design-based SME, this is the easiest and most effective support I have received – exceptional!” said Dr Paul Baglin, Managing Director, tensARC.
This project will see researchers from UWS’s School of Health and Life Sciences validate the Face Gaiter’s effectiveness in preventing transmission of the virus at the University’s microbiology facilities. Specifically, UWS will assess the face covering’s ability to limit the passage of pathogens, including viruses and bacteria. This will provide quality control and assurance to the product and ensuring it is fit for purpose. This is not only important for the commercial launch of the new product but it will also inform and feed back to improve the manufacturing and optimization of Face Gaiter.
It is expected that the use of this product will be immediate in preparation of the Government’s exit strategy on restriction of movement.
*Source control is a medical term used for preventing an infected person passing on their infection to others. With COVID-19 there are asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic cases that could pass the infection on without realising they were sick. This would be dramatically reduced with effective source control.