UBC researchers create biodegradable and compostable N95 masks

May 22 2020, 2:13 pm

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have developed an N95 mask that works to protect individuals from spreading COVID-19 while keeping the environment in mind.

The new mask — called the Canadian-Mask or Can-Mask — was developed by researches at the BioProducts Institute and is possibly the world’s first biodegradable medical mask, as it is made entirely from BC wood fibres sourced from spruce, cedar, and other softwood.

“With escalating tensions during a pandemic, international supply lines for medical masks can break down, creating local shortages,” said Johan Foster, a UBC researcher and chemical and biological engineering associate professor in the faculty of applied science, in a statement.

biodegradable mask

Johan Foster (l) and Orlando Rojas (r)/ UBC

“When we decided to design a mask back in March, we knew early on we wanted a solution that uses local materials, is easy to produce and inexpensive, with the added bonus of being compostable and biodegradable.”

Chemical and biological engineering professor Orlando Rojas, scientific director of the BioProducts Institute, explains that the mask provides a green solution to create more supply during the pandemic.

“If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s how important it is to have a robust supply of protective equipment like N95 respirators and surgical masks,” he said.

“The Can-Mask is a promising solution, as it pairs BC wood– a marvellous material with future potential for advancing our future bioeconomy and creating jobs – with BC industry expertise and technology developed and tested right here at UBC.”

biodegradable mask

Can-Mask/ UBC

One of the prototypes utilizes an N95 filter on the front and the other uses a special filter designed by the UBC team from wood-based products.

The Can-Mask prototyping is nearly complete and is being tested to ensure it meets health and safety specifications. The research team says it has plans to apply for Health Canada certification in “the near future.”