CLAREMORE, Okla. — A company in Claremore fights the virus by manufacturing a key component in masks -- nanofiber.
Since face masks transformed into hot commodities, all 30 of NXTNano employees shifted to a 24/7 shift. The challenge their industry faces is keeping up with demand.
In less than a week, the team produced half a million face masks worth of nanofiber material.
Nanofiber is a thousand times thinner than human hair, but NXTNano’s finished product stands at about four feet and weighs 400 pounds.
The rolled up material is molded into a mask. The fibers are so tightly knit, respiratory droplets can’t get through. COVID-19 spreads through droplets infected people cough and sneeze.
Justin Volpe, NXTNano’s general manager, says, “The nanofiber is what brings it up to 95% efficient at .3 microns -- which is extremely small. The average particle size for the virus is around .1 to .2 microns. When people, including first responders and hospital workers, are reusing masks or trying to find a way to sanitize a mask to keep themselves from being exposed, they’re putting themselves at risk. Our goal is to produce up to five million face-masks-worth of material a week.”
The production rush started last week, after at least 400 incoming calls from clothing companies; local, state, and government officials, and “a lot of international phone calls, people trying to find any material they can use to make the N95 masks that are in short supply around the globe,” says, Volpe.
N95 is a respirator rating. The N means not resistant to oil, but N95 masks are almost 100% resistant to airborne particles. NXTNano’s material meets that standard. Now, they wait to find someone to ship it off to.
Volpe says, “We’re able to do the fabric part. we need somebody else to actually make the mask.”
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