They develop an intelligent FFP2 mask that warns through the smartphone when the CO2 limits allowed inside it are exceeded

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By: Dr. Franyi Sarmiento, Ph.D., Inspenet, March 7, 2022

Scientists and engineers from the University of Granada (UGR) have developed and evaluated an intelligent FFP2 mask, which notifies the user through their mobile phone when the limits of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowed inside it are exceeded. This important scientific advance solves a very important problem since the pandemic began: the CO2 that we re-inhale inside our mask.

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When we use FFP2-type masks, a higher concentration of CO2 is produced between the face and the mask than the ambient (~0.04%) due to the gas exhaled during breathing, the rebreathing of which causes adverse health effects, even in healthy people, such as discomfort , headache, fatigue, dyspnea, dizziness, sweating, increased heart rate, muscle weakness and drowsiness.

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Furthermore, it is known that these negative effects are related both to the duration of exposure and to the concentration of the gas itself. For example, some health regulations recommend a maximum value of 0.5% CO2 in the work environment (averaged over an 8-hour day), or that a 30-minute exposure to 4% CO2 is considered very harmful to health. Health.

“Since the declaration of a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) due to the spread of COVID-19, the universal use of masks has been recommended or imposed on the general population, in an effort to prevent the rapid spread of spread of SARS-CoV-2. Notwithstanding the widespread evidence in favor of masks to reduce community transmission, there is also broad agreement on the potential adverse effects caused by their prolonged use, mainly as a consequence of increased respiratory resistance and rebreathing of situated CO2. in that inner region of the mask”, point out the authors of this research.

The intelligent FFP2 mask designed at the UGR allows real-time determination of re-inhaled carbon dioxide using a mobile phone. This method represents a significant advance as a wearable system characterized by its low cost, scalability, reliability and comfort for monitoring magnitudes of interest for health.

This work, published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications, has been carried out by the multidisciplinary research team ECsens between the departments of Analytical Chemistry and Electronics and Computer Technology of the UGR, which have developed a portable detection system in real time and without battery for the measurement of gaseous CO2 in said internal volume of the mask.

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Sensors to measure parameters of interest

Although standard masks simply act as air filters for the nasal and/or oral passages, the integration of sensors to measure parameters of interest is considered an added value to improve their use and effectiveness, creating a new paradigm of smart masks.

“The system that we propose consists of the inclusion, within a standard FFP2 mask, of a flexible label made up of a novel optochemical CO2 sensor of our own development together with all the signal processing electronics. Both have been printed on a light and flexible polymeric substrate, forming what is called a ‘sensor label’, without causing any discomfort for the user”, the authors point out. The manufactured tag does not use batteries, because it is wirelessly powered by the NFC communication link (the one used for wireless payment, for example) of a smartphone through an Android application. This app is also used for data processing, alert management, and display and sharing of results.

UGR scientists have carried out preliminary tests of this smart mask with subjects, both with sedentary activity and during physical exercise. “Our results, which are in line with previous clinical trials, provide CO2 values between 2% during sedentary activities up to maximum values of almost 5% during high-intensity physical exercise. These values are significantly higher than the range of 0.04% – 0.1% of CO2 found in open atmosphere or typical work environments considered healthy. Although the tests carried out do not constitute a formal clinical trial, their purpose is to give an idea of the potential of the system developed in the field of wearable sensors for non-invasive health monitoring”, the authors point out.

The scientists emphasize that this mask is 100% respectful of the environment, since it does not use batteries, and implements power wirelessly through the standard mobile phone.

All these characteristics reinforce the applications of the proposed low-cost device in the fields of non-invasive health monitoring, preclinical research, prognosis and diagnosis with portable electronic devices, and its use can be extended by including other sensors to monitor other magnitudes of interest.

Bibliographic references:

Escobedo, P., Fernández-Ramos, MD, López-Ruiz, N. et al. Smart facemask for wireless CO2 monitoring. Nat. Commun. 13, 72 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-27733-3

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-27733-3

Nature Portfolio Behind the paper: https://engineeringcommunity.nature.com/posts/smart-facemask-for-wireless-carbon-dioxide-monitoring

Source and UGR Photos: https://canal.ugr.es/noticia/disenan-una-mascarilla-ffp2-inteligente-que-avisa-a-traves-del-movil-donde-se-superan-los-limites-de -co2-allowed-within-it/

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