Researchers at Arizona State University develop breakthrough face covering amid COVID-19 pandemic

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people in so many ways this year, and wearing a mask while outside of people’s homes is just one of them.

Recently, a group of students at Arizona State University just beat out nearly 1,000 entries around the world to show how they can improve face masks to protect people.

The contest has young innovators from more than 70 countries around the world, but ASU’s Team Luminosity had one simple goal: getting comfortable, functional and affordable face masks to the public.

Their invention was the Floe Mask, a potential answer to masks fogging up eyeglasses.

"It really just looks like a normal facemask, which is really what we were going for," said Katie Pascavis, a student researcher at the ASU Luminosity Lab. "The main thing is that the design employs a bifurcated chamber, which is a fancy way of saying that we separate the air from your nose and the air from your mouth to try the stifle some of the heat."

Pascavis and her peers worked hard to advance to the final round against five other teams. She says the Floe Mask looks like a regular mask, but the material's filtration efficiency is similar to that of an N95 mask.

Ultimately, the team took home the XPRIZE grand prize of $500,000.

"It feels insane. it doesn't feel real, especially since we've been doing most of this completely virtually. This entire project has mostly been through laptops," said Pascavis.

Now, it's back to work, as Team Luminosity will have to find a way to distribute the Floe Mask to the masses.

"We're really focusing on taking this prize money and doing what we can to help with this pandemic," said Pascavis.

Pascavis says the team will continue to work with XPRIZE and ASU to keep the project going, as well as reaching out to local businesses to partner with, and find a manufacturer.