COVID Research & Resources Group


Prototype of a high-thread-count cotton and washable silk mask in a cotton/silk/cotton configuration

  • 1.  Prototype of a high-thread-count cotton and washable silk mask in a cotton/silk/cotton configuration

    Posted 12-01-2020 16:34
    Edited by Philip L Cole 12-01-2020 16:36

    Dear Colleagues,

    We would first like to introduce ourselves.  We have formed a research group at Lamar University to understand the effectiveness of homemade masks, led by Dr. Philip Cole, Chair of Physics Department and an experimental nuclear physicist and Dr. Jerry Lin, VP for Research and an atmospheric scientist specializing in chemical transport of aerosols and cloud microphysics.

    We are writing this message looking for a means to test the masks that we made.  We would like to test the efficacy of our masks towards filtering out aerosols and explore if we could collaborate with a group that has an experimental setup similar to Fig. 1 of ACS Nano, 2020 14, 10764-10770 (A. Konda, A. Prakash, G.A. Moss, M. Schmoldt, G.D. Grant, and S. Guha).  We have contacted the authors of this paper and they are not able to make use of their instrumentation for testing our masks at this time.     


    It will still be some time before the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine will be widely available.  So effective mask protection from virus-laden aerosols is a clear and imperative need.  Ultimately, it would offer an opportunity to mass-produce these masks should they prove to be effective.   But first we need to know if these masks work as designed. 


    We based the design on the paper titled Aerosol Filtration Efficiency of Common Fabrics Used in Respiratory Cloth Mask from A. Konda et al., which appeared ACS Nano 2020 14, 6339-6347.   We had over 60 masks produced in accordance with the specifications laid out Table 1 on p. 6344 of this paper. article.

    We used for this batch of 60+ masks in a Cotton/Silk/Cotton configuration

    1. 1000 thread-count queen-sized sheets (bottom and top + pillow casings) 
    2. 5 yards of washable silk (42" wide) 
    3. metal fittings for the nose  
    4. elastic ear bands 

    We have also made three additional sets of prototypes using different kinds of silk/chiffon layers, but in the same Cotton/Silk/Cotton configuration.  I can provide pictures upon request.  


    We seek collaborators.


    Based upon this article, we sought to design and construct a mask that will serve to protect the wearer from inhaling coronavirus-laden droplets and aerosols, which can cause COVID-19.  From our understanding of the paper, the basic idea is that a two-layer high thread-count cotton protects the wearer from droplet spray and the middle silk layer forms an electrostatic barrier to inhibit the passage of aerosols.   


    To our knowledge, there are no such washable multi-layered tightly woven cloth masks on the market today. So, we made over 60 of these protective masks.  Their function is to inhibit inhalation of aerosols.  Every faculty and staff member of the Lamar University physics department was issued three of these protective masks 


    The authors wrote that a silk/chiffon layer is important because it affords an electrostatic barrier.    In the figure next to the abstract of this article a mechanical filtration layer followed by an electrostatic filtration layer is capable of removing >90% of particles with a diameter of <300 nm.  Given that the novel coronavirus (or SARS-CoV-2) is approximately 100 nm in diameter (roughly 1/1000 the diameter of a human hair).  Respiratory droplets/aerosols will provide plenty of sites for the coronavirus to attach to.  Any normal airflow will tend not mitigate the outflow of these suspended particles as they will remain floating in the air. 


    Again, we seek a collaboration wherein we can ascertain the efficacy of these masks.  Should they work well, we would be interested in exploring ways to mass produce them.


    Sincerely yours,


    Philip Cole and Jerry Lin.


    Philip Cole
    Lamar University