DoST tests abaca fiber as face mask material

Cagayan de Oro City: The Department of Science and Technology (DoST)-Region 10 (Northern Mindanao) is evaluating handmade paper made from abaca for use to make face masks to help the country combat the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Due to insistent requests, DoST-Region 10 has accepted different kinds of cloths and face masks made from different materials submitted by local suppliers in the city since April 2020. The agency evaluated the samples according to available resources and literature.

One of the materials evaluated by the DoST-Region 10 through its Regional Standards and Testing Laboratories (RSTL) are abaca-made face masks from Salay Handmade Products Industries Inc. (SHPII). SHPII is a proponent of the DoST flagship program called the Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program.

“RSTL used microscopy to evaluate fiber structures and measure pore sizes, and evaluate the material’s water repellency and absorbency through simple water drop tests and laboratory-modified water drop tests, respectively,” DoST-Region 10 said in a statement.

The simple water drop test is a method to determine the capacity of a fabric or material to repel water, a method from the A Face Mask Resource Kit of the Philippine Textile and Research Institute, an agency under the DoST. On the other hand, the laboratory-modified water drop test is an in-house modification of the Water Repellency: Spray Test (AATCC TM22) of the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists.

The three tests were done on the abaca-made face mask samples as well as on the commercial surgical face masks and N95 masks. The laboratory also selected controls for comparison of results.

RSTL conveyed the results of the evaluation and observations to SHPII in the form of an evaluation report.

“The microscopy results showed data of the pore sizes and description of the fiber configuration, which suggests that the abaca-made face mask has pore sizes that range from 10-70µm and has larger fibers than the materials of the surgical and N95 mask. It also has a medium to tight configuration,” DoST-Region 10 said.

The simple water drop test results showed the abaca-made face mask was not water-repellent because it did not show a well-defined bead of water within and after at least 30 seconds. On the other hand, the surgical face mask were water-repellent.

Results from the simple laboratory-modified water drop test experiment showed the abaca-made mask absorbed 3 to 5 percent while the N95 mask absorbed 46 percent. Also, the surgical face mask absorbed 0.17 percent of the total volume of water dispensed.
DoST-Region 10 said it evaluated the materials for hand-made face masks with the best of its available resources and is still continually upgrading its capabilities to conduct the standard tests as approved by regulatory bodies.

“The results of the evaluation from the abovementioned parameters do not reflect the filtering efficiency or the filter performance of the samples,” it said.

“As in most scientific studies, additional tests are always welcome, thus, the DOST-Region 10 recommends the conduct of standard tests by accredited institutions and further R&D (research and development) on the potential of abaca hand-made paper as a material component of face masks because it is locally available and environment friendly,” DoST-Region 10 added.


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