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FSU researchers receive funding to study how face shapes affect mask performance

Posted at 3:56 PM, Dec 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-09 15:56:46-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Researchers at Florida State University received a grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate how face shape affects COVID-19 mask performance.

Kourosh Shoele, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, is part of a team that has received an $800,000 grant from the NSF to improve the effectiveness of face masks as a defense against COVID-19 and other pathogens.

He and his team hope to understand the flow physics and mechanics of face masks used to protect against the virus.

They are also studying how face masks fit different users and how they can be designed for the faces of a wider group of the population.

Shoele’s lab, which includes doctoral students Tomas Solano and Tso-Kang Wang, works closely with professors at Johns Hopkins University and Brown University to look at different aspects using theory, computation, and experiments.

“You may have noticed that your mask collapses onto your face when inhaling and re-inflates when exhaling,” said Solano. “Or that your glasses fog up when using a mask. This shows perimeter leakage that can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of the mask. Many times, this is simply because the mask doesn’t fit properly. We want to correct these problems.”

One of the techniques the scientists use in the new study involves comparing digital images of facial features to see how masks move on different users’ faces. Using visible and X-ray techniques, the scientists take measurements inside and outside the face mask and look at how particles escape around the perimeter.

The researchers hope to use facial topology data to develop more tools that standardize face mask design guidelines. The criteria established from the data will help define the performance of face masks.