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Polymer, Additives, and Processing Effects on N95 Filter Performance...

Publication Type
Journal Name
ACS Applied Polymer Materials
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1022 to 1031

The current severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV-2) pandemic has highlighted the need for personal protective equipment, specifically filtering facepiece respirators like N95 masks. While it is common knowledge that polypropylene (PP) is the industry standard material for filtration media, trial and error is often required to identify suitable commercial precursors for filtration media production. This work aims to identify differences between several commercial grades of PP and demonstrate the development of N95 filtration media with the intent that the industry partners can pivot and help address N95 shortages. Three commercial grades of high melt flow index PP were melt blown at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and broadly characterized by several methods including differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), X-ray diffraction (XRD), and neutron scattering. Despite the apparent similarities (high melt flow and isotacticity) between PP feedstocks, the application of corona charging and charge enhancing additives improve each material to widely varying degrees. From the analysis performed here, the most differentiating factor appears to be related to crystallization of the polymer and the resulting electret formation. Materials with higher crystallization onset temperatures, slower crystallization rates, and larger number of crystallites form a stronger electret and are more effective at filtration.