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ASU Team Wins $500K XPRIZE For COVID-19 Mask Design

Despite the latest coronavirus surge, some still find reasons not to "mask up."

Now, students from Arizona State University's student-driven Luminosity Lab have won a half-million-dollar XPRIZE for a face mask that removes some of those excuses.

The team beat nearly 1,000 entries from 70 countries to take first place in the XPRIZE Next-Gen Mask Challenge.

Its Floemask design directs air from the nose through a separate chamber, keeping faces cool and glasses fog-free.

"That makes the mask a lot more breathable because there's more surface area in front of your nose in that second chamber. And it also makes it feel less stuffy and hot," said John Patterson, an engineering master's student at ASU. 

Patterson also worked this summer on the lab's low-cost mask sterilization units.

The current mask materials exceed the requirements for N95 filtration.

"We have selected a filtration material for this version that for bacterial loads is up to 98% effective and should show similar performance for viral loads. But this can also be made out of any material," said Patterson. 

The nonprofit XPRIZE Foundation uses competitions to help find solutions to major global challenges.

In this case, participants were asked to design a mask that was cool, comfortable and aesthetically appealing.

Patterson said the team's approach involved adding a large outer edge that conforms easily to the face. The design also incorporates comfortable, adjustable elastic straps, including a chin strap for cinching the mask more snugly against the skin.  

"It's all material that can be found in the typical textile manufacturing industry. And we think that's going to give it a much more global appeal, since it will be much more readily accessible and manufacturing will be much easier on a global scale," Patterson said. 

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Nicholas Gerbis was a senior field correspondent for KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk from 2016 to 2024.