Ever since Covid-19 began spreading in the U.S., state governments have been scrambling to find and secure N95 respirator masks, the kind that seal against the face and filter out infectious particles, protecting frontline workers from inhaling the coronavirus. A national shortage has led states to buy these masks from uncertified foreign producers or from producers that sell foreign-certified products.
“Every state has had to go and buy whatever they can find,” says William Herzog, an assistant leader of the Advanced Materials and Microsystems Group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. “There’s potential for fraud when buying masks not certified by a U.S. agency. So, there’s a need for assessing the performance of these foreign or uncertified masks — people want to know if they’re effective.”
Lincoln Laboratory is part of a coalition working with the Massachusetts Manufacturing Emergency Response Team (M-ERT) to test the quality of N95s, KN95s (N95-like respirators that are made and certified in China), and materials that companies wish to use to make N95 masks.