Investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been working to design a better, reusable respirator that could serve as an alternative to an N95 respirator. In the latest iteration of their work, they have introduced sensors to inform the user if the respirator is on properly and whether the filters are becoming saturated. The team tested the respirator, known as the transparent, elastomeric, adaptable, long-lasting (TEAL) respirator, at the Brigham and at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and reports a 100 percent success rate for fit testing among 40 participants, with feedback demonstrating exceptional fit, breathability and filter exchange. Results are published in ACS Pharmacology & Translational Science.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for respirators and masks has been urgent. Our team has worked to develop a respirator platform that not only fits comfortably and snugly but can also be sterilized and re-sterilized,” said corresponding author Giovanni Traverso, MB, BChir, PhD, a gastroenterologist and biomedical engineer in the Division of Gastroenterology at the Brigham and assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. “In this study, we looked at up to 100 re-sterilization cycles and found that the TEAL respirator we’ve designed can withstand that.”
The team evaluated 7 different methods for repeatedly sterilizing the TEAL respirator, including 100 cycles of autoclaving, 100 cycles of microwaving, prolonged exposure to UV treatment, high heat (200 °C), 100 percent isopropyl alcohol, and bleach. The researchers found minimal change to the respirator’s elasticity after repeated sterilization.
The TEAL respirator is composed of a transparent, stretchy shell that can be sterilized and filters that can be replaced by the user. The team found that all participants could successfully replace their filters and most participants (90 percent) reported an excellent or good fit for the respirator.
“TEAL is the first elastomeric respirator designed for use in a surgical setting, preserving the sterile field and providing the user a comfortable, reusable personal protective equipment solution,” said co-author Adam Wentworth, MS, a senior research engineer in the Brigham’s Division of Gastroenterology and the Traverso lab.
The respirator’s sensors can help detect respiratory rate, exhalation temperature, and exhalation and inhalation pressures. The team also added a thermochromic coating to the respirator — a coating that changes color from black to pink when the respirator is in direct contact with a person’s face and therefore has a snug fit.
The researchers evaluated the respirator’s performance in a clinical setting, enrolling 47 subjects from the Brigham and MGH (40 of the subjects underwent fit testing). Participants were asked to score the respirator on its fit, breathability and ease of filter exchange, and were also asked if they preferred the TEAL respirator to other options. Of those queried, 60 percent preferred the TEAL respirator compared to 5 percent who preferred standard hospital-supplied respirators. The remaining 35 percent had no preference.
“We were excited to receive the feedback from the trial participants that they would love to continue using and testing the respirator, given its comfort, transparency and ease of use,” said co-author James Byrne, MD, PhD, a resident in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Brigham and a postdoctoral fellow in the Traverso lab.
Byrne notes that in addition to its other features, the TEAL respirator’s transparency may offer some advantages over more traditional respirators.
“One of the big benefits of the TEAL respirator is that it enables visualization of the lips,” he said. “This can be immensely helpful in communication and expression, especially during this time when communication through N95 respirators and surgical masks makes it challenging to understand one another.”
The sample size of the study was small, and the investigators acknowledge the importance of additional evaluation in a larger cohort of individuals and over a longer timeframe to further test the respirator’s functionality. To use the respirator in a health care setting, additional testing according to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) criteria will be needed.
Wentworth, Byrne, Traverso and co-authors have filed multiple patents surrounding the respirator and sensors. In addition, Wentworth, Byrne and Traverso have a financial interest in TEAL Bio, a biotechnology company focused on developing the next generation of personal protective equipment. A co-author is on the board of directors for Analog Devices.
Funding for this work was provided by the Prostate Cancer Foundation (Prostate Cancer Foundation Young Investigator Award), the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Karl van Tassel Career Development Professorship, the National Institutes of Health (NIHK23DA044874, R44DA051106, 456 5T32DK007191-45), investigator-initiated research grants from e-ink corporation, Gilead Sciences, Philips Biosensing, and the Hans and Mavis Lopater Psychosocial Foundation.
Siemens, Deutsche Bahn launch local hydrogen trains trial – The Guardian
MUNICH (Reuters) – Siemens Mobility and Deutsche Bahn have started developing hydrogen-powered fuel cell trains and a filling station which will be trialled in 2024 with view to replace diesel engines on German local rail networks.
The prototype, to be built by Siemens, is based on electric railcar Mireo Plus which will be equipped with fuel cells to turn hydrogen and oxygen into electricity on board, and with a battery, both companies said.
Siemens mobility chief executive Michael Peter told Reuters the train combined the possibility to be fed by three sources in a modular system – either by the battery, the fuel cell or even existing overhead lines, depending on where it would run.
German railway operator Deutsche Bahn has not electrified 40% of its 33,000 kilometre (km) long network, on which it runs 1,300 fossil-fuel emitting diesel locomotives.
Rail transport must be decarbonised over the long-term under European Union and national climate targets.
“Our hydrogen trains are able to replace diesel-fuelled trains in the long term,” Peter said.
The new prototype will be fuelled within 15 minutes, have a range of 600 km and a top speed of 160 km/hour.
It will be tested between Tuebingen, Horb and Pforzheim in Baden Wuerttemberg state.
The main target market are operators of regional networks that typically re-order lots of 10 to 50 trains, Peter said.
“We see a market potential of 10,000-15,000 trains in Europe that will need to be replaced over the next 10-15 years, with 3,000 alone in Germany,” he said.
Each train will cost between five and 10 million euros ($5.9-$11.9 million), creating a market potential of 50-150 billion euros overall.
The Berlin government expects green hydrogen to become competitive with fossil fuels over the long term and to play a key role in decarbonising industry, heating and transport.
(Reporting by Joern Poltz in Munich and Vera Eckert in Frankfurt, editing by David Evans)
The impossible choice Canada’s seniors face this winter – 95.7 News
In today’s Big Story podcast, we want elderly Canadians, who are heightened risk from COVID-19, to be safe. For much of the past eight months, that has meant hundreds of thousands of grandparents haven’t seen their grandkids, parents haven’t seen their children, or their siblings — and for many of them, this has harmed them as much as a bout with the virus might.
We all want our elderly loved ones to be around forever, but even forgetting about COVID-19, they won’t be. And as they face another four to six months without much contact or support, many of them are wondering if they might not choose to take the risk with the time they have left.
GUEST: Christina Frangou, science and health writer
You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.
China prepares moon probe to bring back lunar rocks – Aljazeera.com
Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022.
China is preparing to launch an unmanned spacecraft on Tuesday to bring back lunar rocks, the first attempt by any nation to retrieve samples from the moon in four decades.
Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022 and of eventually sending humans to the moon.
The Chang’e-5 probe, named after the mythical Chinese moon goddess, aims to shovel up lunar rocks and soil to help scientists learn about the moon’s origins, formation and volcanic activity on its surface.
The mission is set to take off from the Wenchang space centre on the southern island province of Hainan, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
The China National Space Administration (CNSA) said on its WeChat social media account the launch was planned for between 4am and 5am on Tuesday (20:00 GMT and 21:00 GMT Monday).
The original mission, planned for 2017, was delayed because of engine failure in China’s Long March 5 launch rocket.
If successful, China will be only the third country to have retrieved samples from the moon, following the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and ’70s.
The Chinese probe will collect 2kg (4.4 pounds) of surface material in a previously unexplored area known as Oceanus Procellarum – or “Ocean of Storms” – which comprises a vast lava plain, according to the science journal, Nature.
If successfully launched, the probe is expected to land on the moon in late November and collect material during one lunar day – equivalent to around 14 Earth days.
The samples will be returned to Earth in a capsule programmed to land in northern China’s Inner Mongolia region in early December, according to US space agency NASA.
The mission is technically challenging and involves several innovations not seen during previous attempts at collecting moon rocks, said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
“The US never did a robotic sample return. The Soviet one was very limited and could only land at certain restricted spots,” McDowell told AFP news agency.
“China’s system will be the most flexible and capable robotic sample return system yet.”
A Chinese lunar rover landed on the far side of the moon in January 2019 in a global first that boosted Beijing’s ambitions to become a space superpower.
It was the second Chinese probe to land on the moon, following the Yutu, “Jade Rabbit”, rover mission in 2013.
The latest Chang’e-5 probe is among a slew of ambitious targets set by Beijing, which include creating a super-powerful rocket capable of delivering payloads heavier than those NASA and private rocket firm SpaceX can handle, a moon base, a permanently crewed space station and a Mars rover.
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