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EPFL’s first see-through surgical masks go into production

The HelloMask, the fully see-through surgical mask developed by EPFL's EssentialTech Center in collaboration with the Empa, is about to enter the industrialization phase.

Sample of the material used for the HelloMask
Thanks to a collaboration between the Empa and the EPFL, see-through protective masks have been developed. | Copyright Alain Herzog

A transparent surgical protection has been designed and developed over the past two years by the EssentialTech Center of EPFL, in collaboration with the Empa (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research). This completely see-through version of traditional protective masks is primarily developed with the aim of improving the relationship between caregivers and patients, notably to enable better communication and interpretation of facial expressions.

The material used to manufacture these masks, composed largely of biomass, has now been perfected and the start-up HMCARE, which was established to commercialize them, has just raised one million Swiss francs. After two years of research between EPFL and the Empa, the result is a membrane made of a specific polymer, identical in size to the material used in traditional masks, which allows air to pass through whilst filtering out viruses and bacteria.

The HelloMask could be Made in Switzerland

Initially expected to be manufactured in Asia, the production of the HelloMask could take place in Switzerland. As the recent pandemic has boosted the demand for traditional surgical masks, production lines should soon see the light of day in the country. The manufacturing of the start-up's masks could be integrated into these production lines. The CEO of the Vaud-based HMCARE is currently in negotiations with several companies and public services.

First financed by a dozen philanthropic foundations, then by an Innosuisse grant, the HelloMask project is primarily intended for the medical community, with dentists also having shown an interest. The start-up does not rule out a commercialization for the general public at a later stage.

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