Amid shortage, IIT-Ropar researchers create DIY masks against coronavirus

By: Education Desk | New Delhi |

Published: March 30, 2020 8:09:57 pm

A barber wears a mask amid COVID-19 concerns in Mumbai. (Photo: Ganesh Shirsekar)

As it gets challenging to access masks during the coronavirus crisis, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Ropar has developed a simple technology to help people make their own, using basic materials available at home. Manigandan Sabapathy, head, chemical department at IIT Ropar claims one can create a mask using wax and a handkerchief.

“One can even use candle wax to create a mask at home. This is easy to make, costs nothing and can act as a substitute for N95 masks. It is waterproof and has also cleared the smoke test. A couple of our faculty members have used it and no complaints have been recorded so far. The wax blocks the bigger pores of the handkerchief and its nano pores allow one to breathe easily. It can block the viruses, however, not kill it. Hence the mask is not to be re-used for long,” said the professor. He was assisted by his PhD fellow on the project.

Sabapathy commented that this handy mask is way better than surgical masks, handkerchiefs and other things people are using instead due to lack of knowledge or availability of resources.

In video| How to make DIY coronavirus mask at home

Materials required: Handkerchief, liquidated wax (candle wax or natural wax), and rubber-band

Method: A small quantity of solid candle or natural wax is heated mildly until liquified. A desired or whole part of the handkerchief is soaked in liquid wax and left to dry for 30 minutes. Drying of the wax-coated handkerchief using direct sunlight for 2-3 hours is recommended to get rid of any odour associated with wax.

This, however, is not the only thing the IIT-Ropar faculty is working on. Brainstorming sessions have been on since March 22, headed by Dhiraj Mahajan, professor at mechanical department of the institute. There have been sub-groups created to solve problems of local community including one group each to decide on ventilators, dry sterlisation, etc.

Meanwhile, other institutes have also come up with hand-sanitisers. Some have offered their vacant rooms to the government for use as isolation wards for those suspected to have contracted coronavirus.

The faculty from University of Hyderabad claims to have designed what can be a potential vaccine against the coronavirus, called T-cell epitopes. Seema Mishra of the Department of Biochemistry, School of Life Sciences, has created small coronaviral peptides or molecules used by cells to trigger an immune response to destroy infected cells.

Meanwhile, IIT Guwahati is also working to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus pandemic as well as rapid detection and portable diagnostic kits for various viruses and microorganisms. The institute informed that the researchers there are exploring possibilities to “clone the immunogenic proteins of SARS-CoV-2 to be used as diagnostics and possible vaccine candidates”.

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