Newswise — The Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH) has introduced a new solution in the form of : a transparent mask, addressing concerns surrounding microplastic pollution and harmful solvents of conventional fibrous masks.

Amidst the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the widespread adoption of masks became imperative. However, conventional masks fabricated using polypropylene microfibers presented unpredicted drawbacks. These opaque masks obscured facial expressions, impeding communication and posing challenges for language acquisition, particularly among children.

Since 2015, researchers have endeavored to develop transparent mask alternatives to enhance communication and facial recognition [Ref 1]. However, previous attempts relied on nanofiber materials, leading to microplastic generation and solvent use, raising environmental and safety concerns.

The new type of mask, first proposed by Dr. Hyeonjin Eom, is a film-based transparent mask fabricated using commercial polypropylene film. It ensures transparency and safety without the use of harmful solvents or microplastics. Fabricated by using corona discharge and microneedle stamping processes, the mask features a micro-hole porous film with electrostatic properties, offering superior filtration efficiency (>99% for PM10 particulate matter) while maintaining breathability.

Dr. Eom explains the advantages of the film-type mask, highlighting its safety, affordability, and simplicity in manufacturing. Ongoing research aims to enhance nanoparticle filtration efficiency, preparing for potential future outbreaks and facilitating seamless face-to-face communication with transparent masks.

[Ref 1] Liu, C., Hsu, PC., Lee, HW. et al. Transparent air filter for high-efficiency PM2.5 capture. Nat Commun 6, 6205 (2015).



This work was supported by the Technology Innovation Program (Grant no.: 20005842, Development of industrial heat-resistant air filter technology) funded by the Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy (MOTIE, Republic of Korea), and the KITECH R&D Program (KITECH EO-20-0022, Development of eco-friendly production system technology for total periodic resource cycle). Special thanks to Aran Song for participating in mask testing. An article detailing this research was published in Science of the Total Environment (IF: 10.754), in October 2023.

Established in 1989, KITECH is a South Korean government research institute dedicated to technological advancements for domestic industries, with a focus on export competitiveness and SME support.

Journal Link: Science of The Total Environment, Oct-2023