Jump ARCHES Endowment-funded N95 Mask Design & Proposal Update

The Health Care Engineering Systems Center (HCESC), part of The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is pleased to report on the significant progress of a proposal to develop personal protective equipment (PPE), namely N95 respirators, for local healthcare systems to help protect their staff against COVID-19. The proposal was funded by the Jump ARCHES endowment, a partnership between Jump Simulation and Education Center at OSF HealthCare and HCESC at the University of Illinois.

The team, led by principal investigator Jeremy Guest, Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois, has developed prototypes in collaboration with ShapeMaster, Inc. in Ogden, IL. The first quantitative fit test was performed at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, IL, where the team found that their N95 respirator mask prototype outperformed disposable N95 masks for fit and seal. The second round of fit testing is currently taking place at OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center in Urbana. After the current round of testing is finished, next steps include minor modifications to the design, additional prototype fabrication, and further testing including NIOSH filtration testing at a certified laboratory. Once final prototyping, fabrication, and testing are completed, the team will post the open-source designs online for anyone to manufacture.

“The goal of this project is to leverage the collective resources and expertise of the University of Illinois, OSF HealthCare, Carle Foundation Hospital, ShapeMaster, and other local groups to respond to the urgent and sustained need for N95 respirators,” said principal investigator Jeremy Guest. “The team is working to develop a clear, NIOSH-compliant N95 respirator that, with filter cartridge replacement, can be sanitized and reused for weeks or months.” The PPE shortage has forced many healthcare providers to reuse disposable masks that are intended for only one use. This project will both help alleviate that problem and make it easier on those who are deaf or hard of hearing to read the lips of people wearing the clear masks.

This proposal was submitted in response to the Jump ARCHES Priority Call that was announced in March to attract projects addressing COVID-19 and other pandemics. Guest’s co-primary investigators from OSF HealthCare in Peoria are Jared C. Rogers, MD, CPE, FAAFP, and John F. Kreckman, MD, MBA, CPE, FAAFP. In addition to affiliates from OSF HealthCare and the University of Illinois, the team has been working with Carle Foundation Hospital, Johns Hopkins University, ShapeMaster, Inc., and TEKMILL to develop the respirator. Jump Applied Research Center for Community Health through Engineering and Simulation (Jump ARCHES) is a partnership between Jump Simulation and Education Center at OSF HealthCare and HCESC at the University of Illinois. This partnership provides direct access and competitive grants for engineers and clinicians of every discipline to work together solving problems in healthcare. Over the last four years, this endowment has funded 38 proposals totaling over $2 million to researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria, and OSF HealthCare systems. Learn more about Jump ARCHES here.