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Reusable and Recyclable Graphene Masks with Outstanding Superhydrophobic and Photothermal Performances

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posted on 24.04.2020, 15:03 authored by Hong Zhong, Zhaoran Zhu, Jing Lin, Chi Fai Cheung, Vivien L. Lu, Feng Yan, Ching-Yuen Chan, Guijun Li
The 2019 coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) is affecting over 210 countries and territories, and it is spreading mainly by respiratory droplets. The use of disposable surgical masks is common for patients, doctors, and even the general public in highly risky areas. However, the current surgical masks cannot self-sterilize in order to reuse or be recycled for other applications. The resulting high economic and environmental costs are further damaging societies worldwide. Herein, we reported a unique method for functionalizing commercially available surgical masks with outstanding self-cleaning and photothermal properties. A dual-mode laser-induced forward transfer method was developed for depositing few-layer graphene onto low-melting temperature nonwoven masks. Superhydrophobic states were observed on the treated masks’ surfaces, which can cause the incoming aqueous droplets to bounce off. Under sunlight illumination, the surface temperature of the functional mask can quickly increase to over 80 °C, making the masks reusable after sunlight sterilization. In addition, this graphene-coated mask can be recycled directly for use in solar-driven desalination with outstanding salt-rejection performance for long-term use. These roll-to-roll production-line-compatible masks can provide us with better protection against this severe virus. The environment can also benefit from the direct recycling of these masks, which can be used for desalinating seawater.