Prescient Bezalel student designs stylish antiviral mask

When Bezalel student Yael Mordechay decided to create a stylish mask that would filter germs for an industrial design project, she had no idea how useful it could become in the very near future.

Her compact, two-tone mask protects against air pollution and different types of bacteria and viruses, with a case that uses UV light technology to neutralize the particles and bacteria and keep the mask sterilized and safe for reuse.

Useful, huh?

The mask was part of Mordechay’s assignment during the fall semester for a class on wearable technology. It was due at the end of January.

She was asked to design a product related to a future scenario that could potentially affect the entire world, but little did she know how timely her choice of design would be.

“We had to make something based on what could happen in the world, what’s more doable and what’s less relevant,” said Mordechay.

She was thinking about air pollution and how urban dwellers deal with filtering the air they breathe on a regular basis.

“I’m from Atlit, I love the sea,” said Mordechay, who has been living in Jerusalem for the last few years while studying at Bezalel. “I wanted to examine how I’m dealing with living in a city, and the more polluted air.”

Since she’s an industrial design student at Bezalel, she wanted to create something that was sleek and compact, and better looking than the common white or hospital-green masks.

It also needed a filter, but Mordechay didn’t want it to look anything like the gas masks Israelis associate with sealed rooms and the 1991 Gulf War.

She began the project in November and submitted it in January, before the coronavirus reached Israel.

As part of the project, Mordechay researched filtering masks, aiming to make something small and light, comfortable and better for personal protection.

She first turned to the University of Tokyo, looking for labs that could work with her to find a technology for filtering and cleaning air.

“They’re all wearing masks in Tokyo, and they usually look good,” said Mordechay.

As for the design, she wanted something that was more comfortable than the white masks that have uncomfortable straps and are usually thrown away after a couple of days of use.

Working with a type of double-sided tape, and four layers of fabric for the mask to filter gas and other germs, she created a smaller, more comfortable mask.

To complete the look and in order to preserve the life and hygiene of the mask, Mordechay designed a carrying case with UV light technology, for putting the mask away and keeping it clean.

The case also informs users where the air is most polluted, said Mordechay, and when to put on or take off the mask.

The final product, said Mordechay, has plenty of technology in it, and it looks good. So far, though, Mordechay isn’t using the mask herself.

“It’s just a model,” she said. “No one’s asked me to make it yet, but I wouldn’t say no if someone asked me.”

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