As part of the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers continue innovating and investigating improvements in personal protective technology, such as nanotechnology for safer masks. One of the companies involved in this quest is a firm called Flextrapower (formerly Bonbouton), created to leverage research originally created in Stevens labs for biomedical applications.
Flextrapower has been developing several graphene-based applications, including the most recent COVID-focused effort, a graphene mask.
Backed by the first of two National Science Foundation small business innovation awards that would eventually total more than $1 million, Flextrapower first developed specialized insoles for monitoring the health data of diabetic patients.
Clinical trials of Flextrapower 's insole technology were underway worldwide in early 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The company then quickly pivoted to mask and P.P.E. technologies to meet the need.
"We asked, can we create a graphene-infused mask that protects wearers, and is reusable? Disposable masks are wasteful and unsustainable, and the mask makers know this. So: can it be done?", commented company representatives.
The company had already been working with W.L. Gore, the makers of Gore-Tex, via a technical partnership since 2018.
"They are experts in hydrophobic technologies that repel microdroplets of water while maintaining air permeability," explains Le. "The COVID virus appears to be primarily transmitted by such microdroplets. It seemed natural that we should work together, leverage our expertise and protect people from this new and dangerous virus."
Flextrapower's mask is composed of three layers: two layers of cotton, sandwiching a proprietary graphene textile blend — and it's that key middle layer that may increase protection against COVID-19 and other dangerous airborne viruses.
With a third-party mask maker as an additional partner, Flextrapower has since manufactured and shipped several thousands of the new specialized masks — and is currently negotiating with several distribution partners to increase their availability.
As the company moves forward with multiple biomedical products on the market and in research and development, other units of Flextrapower are investigating such biomedical applications as cardiac muscle sensors and more.
Flextrapower joins a number of other companies to have launched graphene-enhanced face masks. Among these are: UK-based planarTECH's 2AM-branded graphene-enhanced antibacterial face masks, Directa Plus' G+ graphene-enhanced facemasks - Co-mask and Versarien's graphene-enhanced protective face mask, which utilizes Polygrene, Versarien’s graphene-enhanced polymer.