Latvian scientists design new medical protective gear

Latvian scientists have created a new design for personal protective equipment – full gear and face masks to facilitate medical work, Latvian Television reported February 28. 

The new gear sits well on the body and allow movements. Developing the design, scientists at Rīga Technical University (RTU) and Riga Stradiņš University (RSU) studied human workability when wearing the protective gear which is currently worn by medics fighting Covid-19.

“It was concluded that even 10% of the workability was lost, and we were therefore looking for ways of improving this outfit to make it more comfortable. The first task is to that it is more ergonomic,” said RTU associate professor Inga Dāboliņa.

“There is such a specific law in the supply of these outfits. They are delivered large, with the idea that the medics will not fall through it. But it doesn't work – try pulling on a huge-size T-shirt and moving swiftly. To pick somebody up... the T shirt catches on things, and so does this outfit. It's not possible to work normally,” Dāboliņa explained.

The design is ready, but it is still necessary to find the most suitable fabric to protect against both dangerous microbes and to be sufficiently airborne. Samples are made of widely used cotton fabric in hospitals.

“If it's not [cotton], the staff feels bad, there are a number of complaints that, once there's some kind of polyester in it, the outfit feels itchy, more sweaty, worse. We're focusing on it being a cotton gown,” Dāboliņa said.

A prototype for a unique protective mask has also been developed under the leadership of Inga Dāboliņa. It has been tested in Denmark and shows excellent properties – it does not accumulate the exhaled CO2 and does not impair vision.

“It is certified as a respirator, not as a sewn mask. There are pretty cleverly stacked pleats in a way that, first of all, it adapts to the face,” explained the professor.

Scientists at the RTU and Wood Chemistry Institute are still working on a mask filter material with a fungal additive that will easily decompose and not pollute the environment.

In spring, the first laboratory to test individual protective equipment will also start at RTU, and it will no longer need to be done abroad. The State has allocated €2 million to set up the laboratory. It will also accelerate the course of the studies. If the studies are carried out as intensively as they have been and there is funding, the first commercial samples in the production could appear after six months.

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