The experimental rig was successfully used to carry out over 50 tests to measure the flow resistance of four sets of masks, randomly selected from the samples provided by Manchester. Tests were conducted at flow conditions representative of heavy breathing and vigorous exercise. The results were bench marked against a control sample of CE certified IIR masks. In addition, the effectiveness of the masks in stopping the flow of a water droplet cloud with a mean diameter of 3 microns was tested using a pharmaceutical nebuliser.
The test results were processed and analysed and were reported via Zoom to the teams in Manchester and Coventry in less than a week from when Brighton researchers were first contacted.
The study concluded that none of the samples matched the CE-approved face masks in their ability to resist air flow and should not be utilised in a surgical setting.
Dr Begg said: “However, two sets did stand out as markedly more effective than the others, with the potential for deployment in an appropriate setting.
“The results have provided them with important independent scientific evidence that will allow them to rank, ensure appropriate use, prioritise distribution and save money through refund and removal of costly certification of unsuitable masks.”
Those involved in the response were thanked by Simon Gardiner, Health and Safety Manager, and Barney Harle, Head of Major Projects, Corporate Services at Manchester City Council.
Mr Harle said: “It has been fabulous to work with the cross-institution teams from Brighton, Coventry and Manchester to achieve the rapid turn-around of testing of non-certificated masks. The teams involved have, over the Easter bank holiday weekend and university close down period, taken on board a significant and unique challenge to deliver comparative tests using existing equipment and modified test rigs to help understand the products we have received.
“The tests have been specified, designed and carried out to exceptionally tight timescales and using the latest collaborative techniques to ensure the swiftest of conclusions.
“The success of this project has in no small part been due to the sheer enthusiasm, innovation and dedication of all the individual scientific and academic colleagues involved. This has in no small part contributed to our ability to correctly and suitably equip workers across a spectrum of roles with the masks they require.”