LPU Scientists have developed a multipurpose Algae-based Respirator to help ‘Masks’ wearing people breathe easy. The algae in the respirator conduct photosynthesis and remove carbon dioxide and other air pollutants while producing beneficial oxygen. It makes the air passing through masks more breathable. This four-layered respirator-‘Oxigeno’ will provide instant relief, especially to frontline workers who have to go through a lot of discomforts while wearing masks for long hours. LPU has filed a patent for the innovative respirator, which costs around INR 3,600; however,  the price can come down by 30-40 per cent with large scale manufacturing.

Considering many people find it difficult to breathe comfortably while wearing masks to protect themselves against COVID-19, LPU scientists have developed this respirator. It filters out 99.3 per cent of the harmful gasses and small particles in the air while increasing the amount of oxygen passing through it.

Team of Scientists at LPU, including Prof Dr Jastin Samuel and B Tech students Deepak Deb, Anant Kumar Rajput, Manish Kotni, shared: “Wearing a mask amid the ongoing pandemic is a must while going out in public places. However, it causes a lot of discomfort for people who have respiratory problems and for frontline workers who have to wear them for long hours. With better-designed respirator ‘Oxigeno’, we are solving this challenge by making   pure and more breathable air available through it.

LPU scientists noted that the existing N95 or surgical masks filter out pollutants and microbes but are incapable of removing pollutant gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen & sulphur oxides, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Respirator ‘Oxigeno’ can also filter out particles ranging from 10 to 0.44 micrometers with the help of four layers of filters. These comprise of a HEPA filter, which keeps away dust particles, and activated carbon filter to remove VOCs and odours. The other two layers are made of a nitrogen & sulphur oxide filter that stops harmful air pollutants, and PTFE filter for removing particles as small as 0.44 micrometer. The sequence of their arrangement and the design is meant for its efficiency. The additional algae cartridge further enriches the purified air with oxygen, which is especially helpful for those who are suffering from respiratory diseases like asthma, and feel suffocated and uneasy while wearing a mask.

The respirator can also be reused by changing the algae cartridge and the filters. The algae cartridge has a life of around 40 hours of continuous use or seven days. The filters should be replaced after 48 hours of use, or every month, whichever time limit comes first. In fact, the respirator consists of an inbuilt sensor that will alert the user once the cartridge is nearing its life. The material used in Oxigeno is an antimicrobial and biodegradable plastic called PLA-Active, which prevents the growth of bacteria and other contaminants on its surface. Also, on noting that wearing a mask for long hours causes rashes to sensitive skin, LPU scientists have used a gentler silicon membrane to cover the skin around the nose and mouth area by the respirator.