Light-Sheet videos show efficacy of facemasks

By March 4, 2021March 29th, 2021ICFO

Researchers at the SLN laboratory at ICFO, a BIST centre, have used a light-sheet scattering set-up to illustrate how facemasks protect against the spread of SARS-COV-2.

When ICFO re-opened its facilities after the lock-down, it put in place measures and protocols, including the obligatory use of facemasks, to guard against the spread of SARS-COV-2. The measures aimed to provide an environment that is as safe as possible for researchers and staff who need to access the institute’s facilities in order to carry out their work. To date, contagions at ICFO seem to have been avoided thanks to the measures and hard work of the Facilities and Safety teams as well as the ICFOnians who have been conscientious about following the protocols that are in place.

As the virus continues to spread and new variants move rampantly through the general population, management has suggested additional precautions to reduce the continued risk of transmission, including continued attention to mask wearing, and the possibility of wearing a double mask.

Dr Pablo Loza-Alvarez and Dr Javier Morgado have studied the efficacy of mask-wearing thoroughly using the light-sheet scattering set-up available in the SLN laboratory. Their findings conclude that most masks (specifically surgical masks) work very well for large droplets and even for small ones, provided that the air flux is directed to the centre of the masks and that masks are stretched neither horizontally nor vertically. However, no mask provides 100 % filtering and, importantly, masks do not fit perfectly, thus air and therefore aerosols go in and out through lateral openings between the mask and face.

These findings lend support to the ICFO management’s suggestion to use a double protection made of a surgical mask supplemented by a fitted cloth mask on top in order to prevent aerosols escaping or entering.

The SLN team has created the following videos (in English, Catalan and Spanish) that clearly demonstrate these results:

Video in English
Video en Català
Video en Castellano

Full ICFO press release