In 2013, my grandma had a stroke and later a heart attack from air pollution. In panic, I bought air purifiers and masks to send to my family living in Beijing. But when I tried on the N95 mask, my heart sank. They didn’t seal on my face, and how useful is a mask with gaps? How can we have airlocks in space while these leaky masks are our best technology?
Most N95 masks pass the 95% filtration test, but a significant amount of air leaks through the sides. If you look on their websites, you’ll see the masks actually need to be fit tested on each person. That part isn’t advertised to the masses, even though lives are at stake.
My anger drove me to do something about it. I moved from San Francisco to Shanghai to start my first company. idMASK was to be different: airtight, truly efficient, durable, and a social impact enterprise (our masks are Buy One Donate One).
In the winter of 2014, we launched the original idMASK. It was the greatest challenge of my life, but it worked! Test results from the National Lab (GB2626-2006) came back with 99.9% airtight seal.
Now, we launch the idMASK 2.0 designed with the feedback from thousands of users. Our soft silicone seal creates an airlock on your skin, while the electrostatic filter captures 90% of particles the size of viruses to smog.
Disposable N95 masks use a blown microfiber (BMF) layer to slow down breathing, then a thin (cheaper) layer of electrostatic filter can slowly capture particles. We tossed out the BMF layer, and added 2 thicker layers of the (expensive) electrostatic filtration media. This captures particles in the same way, but it also makes breathing more comfortable and sustainable for longer use. We then tried a thickness for 95% efficiency, but due to our airtight seal, it just wasn’t breathable. Finally we agreed on 90% efficiency with an airtight seal. We believe this balance creates a more efficient and comfortable mask, so we leave it up to the you, the user, to choose between 95% filtration material but an unknown amount of leakage, versus our airtight seal and 90% filtration.
Whatever you choose, please wear some sort of mask. If everyone wore a homemade mask, coughs and sneezes wouldn’t get very far, and we would all be safer.