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Most of us probably never thought we would see the day when it was necessary to wear a mask as you go about your daily chores. Today, it has become the new norm so researchers at the EPFL and Empa in Switzerland got busy coming up with an improvement in facemask wearing. It seems as if they now have a new transparent design that no longer obscures the mouth of the wearer.

The CDC has encouraged people to wear facemasks when they are out in public. The problem is, even though many people in the healthcare industry and caregivers are accustomed to doing so, the rest of us are struggling to catch up. If you’ve ever tried to use voice assistant, for example, wearing a mask can certainly make things difficult. Perhaps the largest challenge that we are facing is the impersonal nature of a mask, making it difficult for us to show our facial expressions. It can also be difficult for anyone with hearing impairments.

There have been some prototypes for see-through masks shared online over the past few months. In most cases, the design is associated with replacing part of the mask with a clear plastic panel. It may work for being see-through but it does reduce breathability and can fog up quickly. École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology researchers have been working on developing a new alternative that offers full transparency along with breathability.

Their new creation is known as the HelloMasks and is created from organic biomass-based material. They are more than transparent, they are recyclable and biodegradable. That is important, considering how often you need to remove and dispose of the masks to ensure they are effective. It uses a manufacturing process known as electrospinning, creating an electrical charge to make ultrathin threads. Those polymer fibers are only 100 nm apart. In other words, it is similar to a conventional disposable mask so air particles pass through but viruses and bacteria are blocked.

It’s one thing to have such a research project but quite another to have it available on the market. Fortunately, you won’t have to wait long because a startup company has been created to market this technology. They are developing a manufacturing process to create these transparent masks in great enough numbers to go out to the public. The company is feeling good about the masks and feels that they may be available in early 2021. At first, medical and healthcare professionals will be wearing them but as production moves forward, they may be available for the general public.

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