Virginia Tech producing face shields to protect against Covid-19

In what can only be described as a collaboration of three departments that don’t often collide in the same sentence, the Virginia Tech Athletic, Engineering, and Chemistry departments have joined forces with medical experts to help develop and produce a face shield that can help ward off Covid-19.

The project is led by Stefan Duma, the Harry Wyatt Professor of Engineering, who is the founding director of the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab. Duma is working with Mike Goforth, Associate Athletic Director, Dr. Mark Rogers, chief medical officer for Virginia Tech Athletics, and Matt Hull, a Virginia Tech research scientist and CEO of NanoSafe, a local company specializing in nanoscale exposures.

“In the Helmet Lab, our driving motivation has always been reducing risk to athletes. Historically we’ve done that by testing and evaluating helmets to protect players against head impacts, but some of the same principles helped us think about how to develop equipment to protect them against COVID-19,” Duma said.

The two-part shield is attached to players helmets. In testing with Hull and NanoSafe, the visors blocked more than 99.9 percent of droplets smaller than 300 nm. (Nanoscale size).

The shields are reportedly easy to assemble and come pre-treated to prevent fogging. And the researchers are now looking at treating the face shields with a coating that’s been developed by a Virginia Tech chemistry professor that has been found in labs to inactivate SARS-CoV-2 (The virus that causes COVID-19).

“This research represents the dedication and hard work of experts across the university, who came together to develop and test new equipment on a tight timeline. Ongoing cross-disciplinary collaborations helped us mobilize quickly to develop a solution we’re proud to offer to our players,” Duma added.

The research team has produced more than 40 of the shields for Virginia Tech’s football team, and is working with other organizations to make the design more widely available.

“We need as many good ideas in the ecosystem as possible, so we wanted to make sure that whatever we designed would be easy for other schools or organizations to replicate. We used readily available materials that are easy to assemble and compatible with equipment players are already using,” Duma said.

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