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Researchers in Italy have published a report in medRxiv that proposes using graphene to enhance the effectiveness of PPE (personal protective equipment), including face masks.


The coronavirus pandemic has made the wearing of face masks normal in most workplaces. Inexpensive cloth masks are recommended for many organisations and for use by members of the public.


Surgical masks, on the other hand, are used by health workers. For maximum effectiveness, close-fitting N95 masks are worn, but these are in short supply.


Research by Italian scientists has suggested that adding graphene to masks increases their effectiveness. Graphene can be incorporated in both polyurethane and cotton materials used to make masks, and could perhaps be used when N95 masks are unobtainable.


Surgical masks have three layers. The first stops sweat absorption and other types of droplet from being absorbed, the second holds microorganisms and the third prevents liquid escaping into the environment. COVID-19 can be spread in droplets, and graphene traps fluid, preventing it from escaping into the atmosphere.


Research suggests that surgical masks with added graphene reduce the spread of bacteria compared to standard surgical masks. The report concluded: “Graphene and its related nanomaterials offer significant potential in helping in the fight against the global pandemic.” MedRxiv reports are not conclusive as they are not peer-reviewed.


Therefore, the Italian report on how graphene protects against viruses is not an established medical fact. As a result, graphene-enhanced PPE is unlikely to be on the market until further research has established its effectiveness.

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