ExxonMobil and the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI) have initiated multi-sector and joint development projects to rapidly redesign and manufacture reusable personal protection equipment (PPE) for health care workers, such as face shields and masks, which are in short supply as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
ExxonMobil said in a statement that it will apply its “deep knowledge and experience with polymer-based technologies” in combination with GCMI to facilitate development and expedite third-party production of safety equipment that can be sterilized and worn multiple times.
A new industrial-style mask is being fast-tracked for production. ExxonMobil said the design improves coverage of a health care worker’s nose and mouth and will use a replaceable cartridge system that includes filtration fabric to prevent contact spread of COVID-19 from the saturated filter. In this design, the filters are disposable while the main component of the mask can withstand repeated sterilization, thus prolonging the lifecycle of the product and addressing shortages of N95 masks.
Prototypes are currently being tested and reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration. When approved, production will begin immediately, with ExxonMobil supporting the identification of manufacturers familiar with the materials and process to quickly deliver the masks to doctors, nurses, and health care providers. Once approved, the manufacturers indicate they will be able to produce as many as 40,000 ready-to-use masks and filter cartridges per hour.
Another product developed by GCMI is a face shield made from high-grade polymers that can withstand the harsh conditions of sterilization to enable reuse while meeting the visibility and safety requirements of current designs. More than 50,000 units have already been produced and are being distributed to hospitals in New York and Atlanta. ExxonMobil said production facilities are ramping up to manufacture more than 170,000 shields per hour in the coming days.