Articles written in Bulletin of Materials Science

    • Topography and electrostatic interactions of electret fibres in N95 facemasks


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      Facemasks have been a critical line of defense in the Covid-19 pandemic and have been used for decades to reduce the inhalation of sub-micron aerosols, including bacteria, viruses and nano-materials. These facemasks leverage electrostatic charge properties of non-woven electret fibre mats to remove sub-micron aerosols. However, the topographical and electrostatic properties of these mats have not been well characterized at the nano-scale. In this study, weuse atomic force microscopy (AFM) to examine the surface topography of the electret fibres within a commercial respirator fibre mat, use electrostatic force microscopy to map the electrostatic interactions emanating from these fibres,and use synchrotron X-ray scattering to probe polymer morphology. We find that within these mats the fibres exhibit significant heterogeneity in surface topography, electrostatic interactions and polypropylene phase composition. The surface topographies ranged from nano-smooth surfaces to ordered spherulitic structures. The electrostatic interactions varied across fibre length and circumference, and are only weakly correlated with surface topographical features. Finally, we use AFM to characterize fibres after filtering a NaCl aerosol and find that the deposited particles are heterogeneous in size and distributed over the fibre surfaces.

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