The US government is offering $ 500,000 (£ 360,000) in cash prizes for people to design a new generation of face masks.
The Department of Health and Human Services has launched the competition – for Americans only – called Mask Innovation Challenge: Building Tomorrow’s Mask.
In a post announcing the challenge, officials said skin irritation can occur when masks are worn for long periods of time, glasses can fog up, and people may have difficulty communicating.
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It is hoped that the challenge “will improve the comfort, usefulness and protective capabilities of products that are worn during daily activities by the general public when physical distancing is not possible.”
Another problem that the competition is looking to address is the fact that few masks on sale have been tested to show their effectiveness.
The leaflet said, “In addition, many masks currently available tout unconfirmed protective capabilities that lack scientific evidence to support such claims.
“Overall, there is a need to develop better designs, materials and technologies that are more acceptable to users and that ensure quantified measures of performance.”
A first design competition will see up to 10 entrants receiving $ 10,000 (£ 7,232) each to develop prototypes.
A second round will then take place which will constitute a competition based on a proof of concept.
This will see $ 400,000 (£ 289,310) split among five winners.
In the description of the challenge, he states that the objective is “to develop innovative and efficient designs for mass production and low cost per use devices to be worn by the general public in order to provide protection against disease pathogens. respiratory “.
He adds, “Plus, users of these devices should be able to put them on and wear them without extensive assembly procedures or complicated operating instructions.”
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The deadline to enter the contest is April 21.
The requirements for newcomers state: “In the case of a private entity, must be incorporated and maintain a principal place of business in the United States, and in the case of a natural person, whether participating alone or in a group, must be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States. “