Empa setting standards for textile masks

Empa researchers have developed technologies and quality standards for protective textile masks together with the Swiss textiles industry. This will therefore allow production processes for “Community Masks” to be started immediately.

Test methods for community masks.
Test methods for community masks. Image Credit: Empa

On behalf of the national COVID-19-Taskforce set up by this Swiss federal government, project ReMask launched by the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) has defined a list of precise requirements for textile masks. These are aimed at reducing the risk of a spread of coronavirus. Based on these recommendations, laboratories have been testing masks of this kind. The plan is to now make these available at retailers in the form of Community Masks.

René Rossi from the St.Gallen-based Laboratory for Biomimetic Membranes and Textiles explains in a press release: “Within a very short space of time, we have been able to develop and implement the requisite technologies at the Empa labs”. In order to simulate what occurs on the inside and outside of the masks, the researchers used artificially colored saliva. The textile masks and filter fabrics were tested in terms of their air permeability, spray resistance and the efficiency of particle filtration.

Analytical methods and testing protocols are now being handed over to TESTEX AG, the Swiss testing and certification organization based in Zurich. “We are delighted with this successful and exceptionally rapid knowledge and technology transfer”, Rossi comments. TESTEX has also launched the “Community Mask” label, offering the Swiss population orientation within the market for textile masks and the security of optimal protection.

Empa has already passed on recommendations for domestic mask production processes to various textiles companies. This would allow them to start production processes immediately. The companies are not only distributing the masks via retailers, but also via direct sales channels as well. Peter Flückiger, Director of the industry association Swiss Textiles, explains that the agility and innovative capacity of Swiss textiles firms in combination with the expertise of Empa, as well as through the TESTEX label, has seen a milestone achieved in the development and production of sustainable protective textiles in Switzerland.

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