Biodegradable Face Mask is Design Challenge Entry

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Discarded face mask in gutter
Discarded face masks are an environmental problem. UC Davis students are developing a biodegradable alternative to the N95 mask. (Getty Images)

The COVID-19 pandemic has made face masks an everyday sight. Unfortunately, it has also made used or discarded face masks a common item in trash and litter. Conventional face masks contain plastic materials that do not readily break down in the environment.

A team of UC Davis students is developing an eco-friendly alternative to the conventional N95 mask as their entry in this year’s Biodesign Challenge. The Biodesign Challenge is a competition in which college and high school students from around the world develop create new applications in biotechnology.

The UC Davis team is called GREEN-95. The GREEN-95 mask is made from shellfish  and crop waste products. It is designed to filter 95 percent of airborne particles and to be fully biodegradable.

The UC Davis team will present their work during the 2021 Biodesign Challenge Summit, June 21-25.

GREEN-95 is also taking part in the BARDA DRIVe Mask Innovation Challenge, under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The UC Davis team is currently a semifinalist in that competition.

The team members are Claire Chung, Rory Greenhalgh, Emma Smith, Raj Jagannath. All are undergraduate students taking part in the Biodesign Theory and Practice course. The course is led by core instructor Elizabeth Marley, Department of Design; Professor Marc Facciotti, Department of Biomedical Engineering; and Professor Christina Cogdell, Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior.

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